Message from the Director

Dr. Stan MatwinBig data is a big deal. This is not just an opinion, it is a fact.

Hardly a day goes by without the media talking about it. It surrounds us. It often intervenes in our lives. We can benefit from it, as individuals and as a society. The extent to which we are successful in using it will, to a large extent, determine our success as a knowledge economy and a prosperous, informed and tolerant society of the 21st century.

Big data is not a single breakthrough invention, but rather a coming together and maturing of several technologies: huge, inexpensive data harvesting tools and  databases, efficient, fast data analytics and data mining algorithms, the proliferation of user-friendly data visualization methods and the availability of affordable, massive and non-proprietary computing. Using these technologies in a knowledgeable way allows us to turn masses of data that get created daily by businesses and the government into a big asset that will result in better, more informed decisions. This could lead, for an example, to intelligent, personalized electric power pricing for consumers, to optimized port traffic management or to the discovery of interesting patterns of migrations in marine life.

We have created the Institute as a catalyst and a container in which a number of Dalhousie researchers and internationally renowned experts in all of the above areas can work together on Big Data.

We have three main goals for the Institute in the years to come. Our first goal is to build it into an international hub of excellence in big data research – a place to which scientists will come to work on interesting problems, but also in search of interesting, real-life applications. Our second goal is to make the Institute very relevant to local industries in Nova Scotia, and in Canada.  To achieve this goal, we may want to focus – for example – on becoming a world leader in the analytics of marine data and all aspects relating to marine biology, fisheries and shipping. Our third goal is to develop a focused and advanced training that covers all aspects of big data, preparing our next generation of researchers and practitioners for this big field of study.

I also would like to make note that we are also fully aware of the potential downsides of big data, specifically in the areas of privacy. This topic is particularly dear to my heart. I truly believe that as more technologies advance, often making it even easier to invade people’s privacy, we - as data scientists – have the moral duty to work together as a community on proactive measures that will protect an individual’s privacy in the big data context. Several of us here at Dalhousie have done research that proposes solutions for this problem. This is an area we would like to pursue much further.

Please drop me a line if you are interested in finding out more about our new Institute, about how you can get involved or what we, the Institute, might be able to do for you.



Stan Matwin, Ph.D.

Canada Research Chair and Professor of Computer Science

Director, Institute for Big Data Analytics