The Institute was set up to progress research into the emerging discipline of data science. Based at the British Library in London, it is a collaboration between the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL and Warwick.
Currently laboratory director at Microsoft Research UK and an honorary professor in information engineering at the University of Cambridge, Andrew Blake is a Royal Society fellow (FRS) and known for pioneering a probabilistic approach to algorithms that enables computers to ‘see’. Talking about his appointment, he said: ‘The institute has a societally important mission and ambitious research goals. We will go all out to achieve them’. His five-year tenureship at the Institute begins in October.
During those five years, the Institute is being funded with £42 million from the UK government plus £5m from each of its university partners. A further £10m has just been announced from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF), for research into engineering applications of big data, tackling large-scale challenges such as food, water and energy security, climate change and pandemic disease. Another collaboration will see the Institute work with the EPSRC and Cray Inc. developing the next generation of analytics on ARCHER, the UK’s largest supercomputer for scientific research.
Several RSS fellows (John Aston, Mark Girolami, Sofia Olhede, Gareth Roberts and Patrick Wolfe) are helping to establish the Institute’s early scientific direction. Other mathematical scientists with key roles include the current London Mathematical Society president Terry Lyons, who is on the Institute’s interim programme committee and former Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) president Pete Grindrod, who is a director and trustee at the Institute.
This autumn a series of ‘data summits’ are planned, bringing together users of data science – scientists, social scientists and those using data for commerce, industry or government policy – to help define the Institute’s future research directions. Meanwhile, a call for expressions of interest from research fellows has been issued.
Two of the RSS fellows involved in the Institute, Sofia Olhede and Patrick Wolfe, have written an article for us on how the project came about and what the early focus will be on.