CHAPEL HILL, NC – Researchers at RENCI (the Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill), UNC Charlotte and North Carolina State University will develop advanced technologies and solutions that will position North Carolina as a leader in data science research and applied data analytics and will enable university researchers and business practitioners to use big data to manage risks, gain knowledge, and compete in the global economy.
The project, called the North Carolina Data Science and Analytics (DSA) Initiative, will receive about $2.1 million over three years through the UNC Research Opportunities Initiative (ROI) awards, funded by a targeted legislative appropriation. The DSA Initiative, with UNC Charlotte as the lead institution, was one of six ROI awards announced by the University of North Carolina General Administration on Feb. 10.
The DSA Initiative brings together ongoing research efforts at the three partner institutions to develop a data science and analytics technology infrastructure that will support strategic research hubs of excellence. The ROI award will also support an initial research theme focused on risk analytics and mitigation in business, healthcare, and government.
To create the DSA infrastructure, the research team will expand and enhance several existing technologies:
- NC State’s Virtual Computing Laboratory, a production cloud environment that delivers service from single desktops to high performance computing, will evolve into a statewide cloud to deliver services that support DSA research and education.
- The Data Observatory developed by RENCI and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Odum Institute for Research in Social Sciences through the National Consortium for Data Science, will be expanded to offer more data collections from RENCI, UNC Charlotte, NC State and other North Carolina institutions. The observatory will offer access to relevant data sets and facilitate development and testing of new algorithms and analytics processes in the focus area of risk mitigation.
- UNC Charlotte will contribute its System for Observation of Populous and Heterogeneous Information (SOPHI) enterprise data analytics hub to the infrastructure, allowing for timely ingestion, storage, discovery, and retrieval of large structured and unstructured data sets in any format.
- iRODS, the integrated Rule Oriented Data System, now developed and sustained by RENCI, will be used for federated data sharing, storage and access, as will storage technology developed by NC State partner LexisNexis.
“We see this project as a way to bridge the big data needs of academic researchers and business users who need quick, accurate analytics to manage risk,” said Ashok Krishnamurthy, a co-principal investigator on the project and deputy director at RENCI. “This investment by North Carolina and the UNC system will change the way North Carolina businesses, government agencies, and universities think about data and use data to solve problems and make progress in a wide range of fields—not just in risk analytics but in areas ranging from climate analytics to biological sciences, banking, and national security.”
UNC ROI is funded by a recurring $3-million annual appropriation from the 2014 General Assembly, representing North Carolina’s first financial investment in the UNC system’s five-year strategic plan. Priority research areas eligible for ROI funding include advanced manufacturing, marine and coastal science, defense, military and security, pharmacoengineering, energy, and data sciences.
The awards support game-changing research in areas of strategic importance to the state. Fourteen full proposals from an initial pool of 74 pre-proposals competed for funding and award winners were selected through a rigorous review process led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“The ROI provides targeted funding for innovative and potentially game-changing projects,” said Christopher Brown, UNC vice president for research and graduate education, in a UNC General Administration news release. “These awards, which will advance cutting-edge research at UNC institutions, also demonstrate legislators’ growing appreciation of the role university research can play in supporting economic development across our state.”