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FEATURE DIGGING IN DATA


Digging in data T


HREE DATA CENTRES within the ESRC-funded Big Data Network Phase 2 are making data, routinely collected by business and local government


organisations, accessible to a wide range of users and academic researchers in order to undertake research of mutual benefit to data owners and in ways that safeguard individuals’ identities.


ESRC Business and Local Government Data Research Centre


Business and Local Government Data Research Centre: Led by Professor Vania Sena at the University of Essex Big data are the talk of the day. As the joke goes, everybody likes to talk about them but in reality not everybody is entirely sure about what they are and how or if they can be of any use.


In reality most organisations do not seem to be


able to fully exploit these data and equally they do not seem aware of the techniques that would help them. The ESRC Business and Local Government Data Research Centre allows local governments and businesses to benefit from the big data revolution. To help companies and local authorities explore and understand their data more effectively the Centre is collaborating across academia, business and local government drawing together theory and practice. The Centre is overseeing the creation of a physical repository based at University of Essex where the big data provided from both businesses


The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) is working with business organisations to open up use of consumer data resources for use by the academic community


Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC): Led by Professor Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah at the University of Glasgow Cities are complex and dynamic, constantly challenging urban planners, city managers and policymakers to develop and implement robust urban policy. But city dwellers and organisations (government agencies, business, voluntary organisations, citizen scientists, urban planners using computer simulation models) also generate a wealth of information. Through the analysis of such urban ‘big


data’, analysts can yield new understanding of trends, patterns or relationships about the social, environmental or economic activities of a city. This leads to data-driven urban planning, policymaking and business innovations by helping analysts better understand the challenges facing their city and potential solutions. The ESRC established the Urban Big Data


Centre to provide a framework and support for UK data owners and users to interrogate and extract useful information from urban data for policy, business and citizen engagement. In addition to compiling and providing access to urban data through an online portal, the UBDC also provides services to link and curate data, and expert support and training for users in advanced analytics. The UBDC is also committed to developing innovative methods relating to urban data management and analysis, and new data products. For example, the Integrated Multimedia City Data (iMCD) project, will collect and analyse urban data


24 SOCIETY NOW SPRING 2015


Analysis of data from local government and businesses can lead to understanding challenges in society and show potential solutions – from improving urban decision- making to helping businesses flourish – that help to shape society


and local authorities will be securely stored and will also provide users secure access points to the data. The research programme will draw on these data providing methodological advances for the analysis of big data, as well as an innovative, substantive and interdisciplinary research programme on smart, sustainable and inclusive regional economic growth. To help local government and businesses make the best of their data, bespoke training and a Knowledge Exchange programme offer users a suite of big data solutions to use data more effectively. Understanding big data is a big deal for everyone. By exploiting and understanding data we can help businesses grow and help inform public policy for a better society.


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