Prince Constantijn: research on big data urgently needed
Policy makers urgently need scientists’ help with the phenomenon of big data. This was the view expressed by Prince Constantijn, speaking at the opening of the Leiden Centre of Data Science, the virtual centre for research on big data at Leiden University.
Prince Constantijn opened the new virtual centre LCDS by pressing a button to start a digital presentation. He has a connection with both Leiden University (he studied Law here) and big data: he is the Chef de Cabinet of Neelie Kroes, the EU Digital Agenda Commissioner in Brussels.
In his speech, Prince Constantijn emphasised the importance of data science: ‘Big Data is big in many ways. Not only in terms of economics, but also the moral issues involved. Who owns the data? Big Data is still in its incubation phase. It will grow up and will have considerable impact on our world. I hope that the Leiden Centre of Data Science will play an important role in this process. Policy makers are only just starting to comprehend this phenomenon, and the opportunities and challenges that we face. For these, they urgently need the assistance and support of science. I therefore consider the founding of the LCDS by a leading university, such as Leiden, to be an essential step.'
‘The new oil’ is the term used by Joost Kok, Professor of Computer Science and Scientific Director of LIACS (Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science), to describe big data. Prof. Kok explains: ‘Data are in fact raw material for research in every conceivable field: from statistical methods in medical research on diseases to the analysis of complex datasets in physics, astronomy and environmental issues.’ LCDS builds on research that is already taking place at Leiden University. Research on exoplanets, for example, or the search for the so-called $1,000 genome in medical technology. In this context, LCDS is especially concerned with questions in the area of ethics, privacy, data protection and peace-related issues. Two overarching themes, fundamentals of science and life, health & bioscience, form the common thread of the research. Both are themes in which Leiden University has a strong international position.
Data generated in experiments are valuable for follow-up and new research. Research on methods in the field of open analyses, also known as open data, is one of the LCDS areas of expertise. How is information made available and shared, and what privacy issues and decision-making models are involved? Mathematical models and methods and their results are shared worldwide using Leiden protocols (open machine learning), and Leiden scientists are working on a global infrastructure for publishing, finding, sharing and re-using scientific data (FAIRport). This can be used to determine whether information is open or closed, and the extent to which it is shareable.
How can we help industry to produce better cars? Together with the National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI), Leiden researchers are working on improvement of the car production processes of Tata Steel and BMW. Data science is used here as an optimisation technique. Information (‘the new oil’) is generated and analysed from data produced in the Tata Steel and BMW factories in the past. The information is then converted into a model that can predict which variables in the production process will result in a better car.
LCDS is an initiative of the Faculty of Science. The network connects researchers with an interest and expertise in data science from all disciplines of this faculty and of the other faculties and Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). The initiators of LCDS are Professors Joost Kok, Jaap van den Herik and Jacqueline Meulman, of the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science and the Mathematical Institute respectively.
In the afternoon there was a demo fair, where researchers presented various displays of their projects to the public. After this, speakers from several different disciplines gave a presentation about the role of big data in their research.