Exploring big data's potential for the Northeast

Penn State part of $1.25 million NSF grant on big data

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on a Columbia University-led, $1.25 million project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to share data, tools and ideas for leveraging big data to address pressing societal challenges facing the northeastern U.S. and the world.

The Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub is one of four NSF Big Data Innovation Hubs and will bring together experts in the public and private sector to collaborate on data-driven solutions to problems in health care, energy, finance, urbanization, natural science and education.

"The Hub will be a coordinating entity for promoting all kinds of data science and reaching interdisciplinary areas, and Penn State has enormous strengths in this space that are of value to developing this project,” said Padma Raghavan, director of Penn State’s Institute for CyberScience.

Massive datasets and novel computational techniques are revolutionizing how individuals and societies acquire and use knowledge in every area. Predictive models derived from observational and experimental data provide health interventions tailored to individuals; improve teaching and learning in schools; ensure sustainability of food, energy and water resources; and inform public policy.

With 40 universities, and partners in industry, government and the non-profit sector, the Hub will identify and address regional, national, and global priorities. A series of workshops over the next three years will foster partnerships and high-impact collaborative projects.

The Northeast Hub will investigate how data sharing can maximize discovery, open data principles can balance with privacy and security concerns, cities can mine and share data to improve public services and patient and environmental data can improve health.

The Northeast Hub includes all six New England states as well as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. General Electric, Microsoft and Ericsson are among 20 industry partners; New York City’s Office of Data Analytics, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Regional Plan Association are among 20 government and non-profit partners.

The Northeast Hub will have six areas of focus -- health, energy, cities and regions, finance, big data education and discovery science.  It will also address four overarching themes -- education, data sharing, ethics and policy and privacy and security. Adam Smith, associate professor of computer science and engineering will lead the privacy and security effort and focus on how to keep data safe but accessible at a wide scale while protecting individual privacy.

Vasant Honavar, professor and Edward Frymoyer Chair of Information Sciences and Technology; director, Center for Big Data Analytics and Discovery Informatics; and associate director, Institute for Cyberscience, Penn State, will serve on the leadership team of the Hub.

Penn State Liberal Arts Research Professor of Political Science and Sociology Christopher Zorn will serve as a member of the Hub's ethics effort.

The Northeast Hub will hold its first workshop on Dec. 16 at Columbia.

More on the Northeast Big Data Hub can be found on its website at

Last Updated April 21, 2017