What are the Big Data Challenges that Universities are facing?

Universities around the world can now co-operate and develop ways to scientifically and technologically organise global research projects due to increase in data and development of science. At the 2014 Internet2 Global Summit, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Shirley Ann Jackson, said “In this era of big data and big science, universities must serve as a crossroads for collaboration more than they ever have”

President of Indiana University, Michael McRobbie, believes that researchers and IT experts must collaborate in an optimized and unique way. IT experts must support researchers by understanding their technological requirements and providing the necessary solutions. McRobbie said that “It is absolutely essential to ask and continually ask the researchers what it is that they want.”

Universities are currently facing 4 main challenges on their way to facilitate this mission and discover the true potential of big science and big data.

Amount of Data

Image Courtesy: bit.ly/1hjZ7IH
Image Courtesy: bit.ly/1hjZ7IH

Prominent research projects give out staggering volumes of data. The Internet2 Research and Education Network enable researchers to distribute huge volumes of data, which is currently close to 50 petabytes per month. Although the network is strikingly fast, the rapidity and the sheer amount of data poses serious challenges.

Moreover, the supercomputers and networks are not capable of dealing with such large amounts of data. Shirley Ann Jackson believes that this problem can be dealt with cognitive computing systems through accumulation and interpretation of data.

Speed of Data

Image Courtesy:  bit.ly/1nPIH23
Image Courtesy: bit.ly/1nPIH23

It is imperative that the researchers determine a way to deal with all the data when it’s in motion and at rest as large quantities of information are being delivered to them at lightning speed. The IT experts also need to find out a way to embed further artificial intelligence in the networks in order to determine which data to transfer and how.

Variety of Data

Image Courtesy: onforb.es/1ml6pUy
Image Courtesy: onforb.es/1ml6pUy

Another serious challenge is the variety of data that is being sent from innumerable, and perhaps unlimited, sources and regions. As researchers from across the globe are collaborating with each other, it is hard to find out who contains the data and what tools can be used to handle it.

The Internet2 networking consortium has partnered with the National Knowledge Network (NKN) to find a solution to deal with this problem and improve education and research. Moreover, tools like Watson, and artificially intelligent computer system from IBM can also help to handle this challenge. Researchers in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are planning to use Watson as a data adviser to help them navigate through the gold mines of information available worldwide.

Authenticity of Data

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Image Courtesy: bit.ly/1o9K1dE

As data is now available from numerous sources, researchers need to decide which information is reliable and useful. Jackson recommends the usage of artificial intelligence to deal with this challenge. No matter what steps the universities take, it is necessary to boost the internet networks. This will make sure that the different sources and connections do not influence or affect the research.

Jackson said, “We are connected by our exposures, and we are exposed by our connections. Therefore it is of importance that greater resilience be built into our networks, both for the security of Internet of Things, as well as for avoiding disruption of important collaborative research efforts.”

Building People Networks

Image Courtesy: bit.ly/1nPLLvb
Image Courtesy: bit.ly/1nPLLvb

However the real challenge is building connections and networks between IT experts, university leaders and researchers from different parts of the world. This is undoubtedly the most important and valuable aspect.

Jackson added “The most important networks in discovery and innovation are human. But unlocking human potential depends not only on the technology we put in place, but on how we are able to use them.”


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