New PhD training centre at Lancaster to boost UK’s data science expertise

26 October 2017 15:40
Data-intensive science in the UK has received a major boost thanks to an investment of almost £10 million to train the next generation of experts.

Thanks to increasingly powerful technology, researchers can gather, store and utilise vast amounts of data – but to make sense of this data, many more expert scientists are needed to ensure the UK takes full advantage.

The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is supporting eight new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in data intensive science to address this skills need.

The eight new Centres will be based at 19 universities including Lancaster where Professor Roger Jones from Physics is leading the project.

He said: “Lancaster is highly engaged with data intensive science, be it the huge data volumes at the Large Hadron Collider or seeking delicate signals in astronomical data. These Data Intensive Science PhD studentships will allow us to embrace some of the latest techniques in data intensive science, as well as allow the students to see their application both for science and in commercial applications. A second cohort will start next year, and we hope for many more to come.”

The 19 centres include industrial partners and will offer comprehensive training in data intensive science through cutting-edge research projects and a targeted academic training programme. This will be complemented by secondments to national and international partners.

STFC’s Executive Director of Programmes Professor Grahame Blair said: “This investment will not only bring on the next generation of much-needed data scientists with the skills and knowledge to become leaders in the field, it will be crucial in ensuring the UK research sector and the UK economy remains competitive on the world stage.”

PhD students will be trained to analyse data from astrophysics, accelerator science, nuclear or particle physics research, as well as to problems posed by industry and other organisations. They will be supplemented by additional studentships funded directly through the STFC and other sources.

Professor Blair added: “It is vital that all sectors in this field work together and learn from each other. The investment in these new Centres builds on the creation of the World Wide Web at CERN and the big data challenges of both the Large Hadron Collider in our particle physics programme and the large cosmological surveys in our astronomy programme."

Modern observational and experimental facilities produce mountains of data and sifting through that data manually would take years. This is where the data scientists come in. 

Data-intensive science utilises sophisticated computational, statistical and programming techniques, including artificial intelligence and machine learning to extract insights from huge datasets to make new discoveries.

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