UK universities invest in data analytics to further research

Data analysis can provide a wealth of information that has near-limitless potential, and in the U.K., the big data will be funneled into research. David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, recently announced that the government will be providing £73 million (about $121 million) for a plethora of big data research projects across four U.K. research councils.

"Making the most of large and complex data is a huge priority for the government, as it has the potential to transform public and private sector organization, drive research and development, increase productivity and innovation, and enable market-changing products and services," Willetts said in a release.

Impacting the environment
The National Environmental Research Council will have £4.6 million ($7.6 million) to invest in data analysis that will benefit 24 different projects. For instance, a portion of the funds will go toward researching severe space weather risks. Investigators will be able to compile and analyze high-resolution photos of the visible surface of the sun and potentially determine new ways to predict major weather events.

Facilitating health research
The majority of the funding is going to the Medical Research Council to explore bio-informatics, according to Computerworld UK. MRC researchers will use the £50 million ($80 million) develop better processes for collecting, storing and processing biological data. Streamlined data analytics has the potential to unlock new information regarding biological diseases that could change the face of health care.

Investing in economics
Another £14 million ($23 million) is being allocated to four universities in the U.K. – Leeds, Essex, Glasgow and UCL – via the Economic and Social Research Council. The research this grant supports will explore a variety of subjects that impact socio-economic climates in the U.K. and on a global level. Tech Week Europe points to issues such as obesity and transportation as possible areas of investigation.

"These awards provide a real opportunity for Leeds to establish a leading center in data analytics which will have clear patient benefits, high social and economic impact, and real international reach," Sir Alan Langlands, vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, told Phys.org. 

Analyzing the arts
The Arts and Humanities Research Council will receive £4 million ($6.6 million), and the funds will go toward organizing previously compiled data sets and making them available to the general public. Computerworld UK reports Lancaster University has a massive collection of musical scores that have been preserved as image files. With the government grant, the university will be able to provide access to thousands of these images for anyone interested.

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