Two major grants for ‘Big Data’ analysis have been announced by Minister for Universities and Science David Willets: a £5.8m award from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and a grant of approximately £5m awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the final details of which are still being negotiated.
The ESRC grant will establish a new Master’s course in Geography and Business to help address national skill shortages in Big Data analysis, and fund a Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) jointly hosted by the University and University College London. The CDRC will be a national resource that will make data, routinely collected by business and local government organisations, accessible for academics to undertake important research in the social sciences to inform policy development, implementation and evaluation.
The focus of the MRC-funded research will be to link up electronic health records from people who have already agreed to use of their data for research, with high-volume molecular data, such as genome sequences. Careful analysis of these datasets in a secure environment can benefit patients by uncovering the underlying molecular mechanisms of disease, suggest new diagnostic and prognostic tests, help identify therapeutic targets, and monitor how effective medicines are.
Both projects will be subject to stringent safeguards in relation to confidentiality and data protection and will operate to the highest ethical standards.
The University has also received research funding for two more Big Data projects. The Arts and Humanities Research Council has awarded £280,000 for a project to make data more accessible for the general public, specifically by the use of visualisations. An award of £183,000 from the Natural Environment Research Council will enable researchers to expand a processing facility for the enormous amounts of radar data from the ESA satellite Sentinel-1, to monitor and map ground movement in regions prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and monitor ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica.
(taken from University of Leeds Reporter issue 580 March 2014, full press release available at: