“Big data is a UK success story*” was one of the key messages about the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Big Data Dilemma inquiry report published today (12 February 2016).
The Open University, an institution at the forefront of developing applications for big data, has welcomed the report but recognises there are many challenges ahead. In particular addressing the data science skills gap and the practicalities of shared infrastructures.
Professor John Domingue, Director of the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute, said: “The Big Data skills gap is forecast to grow exponentially in the future. The Open University has an obvious role to play in the development of specific skills. We are directly addressing the Big Data skills problem through the EU-funded European Data Science Academy and development of MOOCs available on FutureLearn.”
He added, “The work we are leading on in the MK:Smart project is an example of how the OU is addressing strategic applications of Big Data. This project is looking at how Big Data can overcome some of the sustainable growth challenges of the UK’s fastest growing city, Milton Keynes. It is also enabling business and citizen innovation projects to bring further economic and quality of life benefits for local people.”
Big data is also being used by the OU in a project called OU Analyse. This project makes use of aggregated student data to highlight points at which students could benefit from additional tutor support, thus helping to ensure successful progression throughout their course.
Speaking about OU Analyse, Professor Domingue said,
“At the OU we take data privacy and the ethics around data very seriously. We believe that we are the first university in the UK to create an ethics policy around the use of Learning Analytics data.”
The OU submitted a response to the inquiry last September stressing the importance of data science skills; shared data infrastructures; enabling citizens to access and benefit from the technology; and targeted research programmes focusing on the implications of Big Data technology.
*Quoted by TechUK “big data is a UK success story—underpinning the digital transformation across sectors and industries including retail, media and fintech, and is a key driver in enabling digital entrepreneurialism”