University of Birmingham launches new data sciences institute

A new institute that will drive forward the use of big data and artificial intelligence in addressing major global challenges has been launched at BHP founder-member the University of Birmingham.

The Institute for Interdisciplinary Data Science and Artificial Intelligence draws together expertise from across the University, harnessing the power of data science to speed up scientific discovery, make smarter, faster robots, and improve medical diagnostics.

Professor Iain Styles, Director of the Institute, said: “Data science and AI have made spectacular advances in recent years to become vital tools in scientific research. At the University of Birmingham we’re able to build on extensive expertise in modelling, statistics, machine learning, linguistics and optimisation – as well as the social, ethical and legal implications of data science technologies – to ensure these tools can deliver the information that we need to drive change.”

At the heart of the new Institute is the University’s high performance computing facilities provided by the Birmingham Environment for Academic Research (BEAR). These include the University’s supercomputer, BlueBEAR; and BEAR AI, one of the UK’s largest IBM POWER9 AI clusters. Most recently, the University has set up Baskerville, a high performance computing resource for modelling and data analysis that is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Baskerville provides researchers with access to the latest generation of hardware to accelerate their research.

Collaborations with partner organisations is a fundamental part of the Institute’s interdisciplinary mission. By working with organisations from business and industry, the public sector, and the third sector, Institute researchers will be helping to ensure that fundamental and applied research can be translated into real-world impact.

Research theme – Healthy Bodies, Minds and Behaviour

Data is transforming our understanding of our health, from the underpinning molecular processes, through to the spread of disease in populations.

Our researchers are developing the infrastructure and the mathematical and computational tools needed to link data across scales to understand the mechanisms of health and illness, how ill-health can be treated or even prevented, and how our behaviour affects our physical and mental health.

Institute researchers will also be working closely with researchers in the Alan Turing Institute – the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence – which the University joined as a University Partner  in 2018. Working across the Turing’s scientific programmes, the University has been developing a portfolio of world-leading collaborative research in areas such as behavioural data science, healthcare, imaging, and linguistics.

Ensuring the University continues to develop and train future generations of researchers in data science and AI, the Institute is developing education activities so that every student can study and develop skills in these areas. These activities will join the University’s range of Masters programmes in Data ScienceArtificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and Responsible Data Science.

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