Filling the ‘big data’ skills gap

Big Data

Southampton researchers are playing a major role in the establishment of a new online training platform that will help to meet an urgent demand for skilled ‘big data’ professionals across Europe.

The European Data Science Academy (EDSA) will enable European organisations and businesses to take advantage of the increasing availability of large and complex data sets, known as big data.

“Big data analysis can provide an unparalleled level of insight into what is happening around a particular issue, by revealing trends that may never have been noticed before,”explains Dr Elena Simperl, Associate Professor at the University’s Web and Internet Science Group and the EDSA project’s technical lead.

The continued growth of the data-driven economy means that, in order to remain competitive, more and more organisations will need professionals capable of handling large amounts of data. In the UK alone, it is estimated that demand for these skills will increase by 160 per cent by 2020, creating almost 56,000 jobs per year. EDSA will use e-learning technologies to create courses and training for data science professionals across key EU industry sectors, providing a supply of data scientists with the knowledge and skills to help organisations of all sizes make use of big data.

“We’re developing a data science curricula based on the demands of the community, and then using eBooks and MOOCs to disseminate our teaching materials – which will be available in numerous European languages – to a huge audience, and to a range of industry sectors and job roles,” says Dr Chris Phethean, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Web and Internet Science Research Group.

The project is funded by a €2.9m (£2.2m) investment through the EU Horizon 2020 programme. Led by the Open University, it involves nine partners from higher education, professional training organisations and technology innovators across Europe. Among them are universities in Sweden and the Netherlands, and the UK’s Open Data Institute, which was founded by University of Southampton Professors Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt.

“The EDSA project offers a great opportunity for Southampton to strengthen its position in the data science industry,” says Elena. “This complements the launch of our new MSc programme on the same topic later this year.”


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