Duke University has received $9.75 million in gifts and matching funds to drive big data research across medicine, energy, social science and other areas, the university announced this week. 

Duke's big data effort -- known as the Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) -- launched in 2013. It focuses on "harnessing massive amounts of information to tackle society's biggest challenges," according to Duke President Richard H Brodhead, who announced the funding total on April 27.

Sample case studies so far include:

  • Duke faculty and students have analyzed and interpreted data captured by computers, cameras, sensors and smart phones.
  • Collaborations with Duke Medicine to deploy personalized health care; with the Duke University Energy Initiative to understand energy usage and improve efficiency; and with Duke’s Social Science Research Institute to inform better public policies.
  • Teams are also tackling the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges for Engineering, such as reverse-engineering the brain to uncover its unrealized potential and to improve detection and treatment of brain-related diseases.

[Also See: Duke Medicine's Big Data Plan to Improve Population Health]

Duke is coordinating its iiD and big data push with another initiative called Bass Connections -- which encourages students and faculties to collaborate across disciplines.

Bigger (Data) Picture

Big data research has become a top priority on many college and university campuses.

Some of the efforts pair university researchers with industry experts. For instance, UC Berkeley, Stanford and State Street Global launched the Consortium for Data Analytics and Risk (CDAR) earlier this month. 

Big data also is a major educational focus for numerous universities and colleges. Many of those education efforts, including big data courses from MIT, are now available online.

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