Oct 2, 2015

Alan Turing Institute opens in UK

Workshop series kick-starts operations of new UK Data Science Institute

The new UK national data science institute has opened its doors for business. The Alan Turing Institute was established in response to a letter by Sir Mark Walport to the UK prime minister outlining the need for a national institute. The letter was entitled the ‘Age of Algorithms’, and explained the growing need for expertise in algorithms and analytics.

In March 2014 in rapid response to the letter, the UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced the government’s intent to establish the Institute. An international peer review process selected five joint venture partners of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL and Warwick, to which a sixth partner of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has been added. The Institute has a budget with a current level of funding of £77 million GBP, and its headquarters have been announced as the British Library near King’s Cross in London, a major transportation hub with easy access to the five academic partners.

US developments are also rapidly taking place in this space: the Simons Center for Data Analysis is a recent addition to the international landscape, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have resourced activities at The University of Washington, the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University. Other recent European additions include the Paris-Saclay Centre for Data Science.

The focus of the Institute will be core research in data science, spanning statistics, mathematics and computer science. Its Director-elect, Andrew Blake, is currently working at Microsoft Research Cambridge.
ATI director Andrew Blake
Andrew Blake will be the first Director of the Alan Turing Institute

Many of the researchers involved in the endeavor are from a more theoretical background, including Terry Lyons, the London Mathematical Society’s president, and past IMA president Peter Grindrod, and IMS members Aston, Olhede and Wolfe. Its board chair is simultaneously chairman of the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences Management Committee.

As a first stage in activities the Institute is holding a series of workshops (see https://turing.ac.uk/#data-summits-workshops) to map out the current state of the art of data science. Between September and late December 2015, 17 workshops have already been scheduled, and a number more will be organized before the end of the year. Common to the events is forging new links between the mathematical sciences and computer science, and a focus spanning theoretical developments to very applied problems. The science is driven by real practical problems, but requiring new theoretical questions to be posed.

The Institute has also issued a call for expressions of interest from research fellows, posts aimed at finishing PhD students, and more experienced postdoctoral researchers, see https://turing.ac.uk/#research-positions. The Institute is recruiting broadly across the remit of data science, starting to staff up to the 200 researchers who will be based at the British Library.

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