UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Working with UCL, Food Standards Agency pushes big data research to the top of the agenda

12 September 2016

Green apple with binary code

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that it will fund a research fellow in Data Science and Food at UCL. The fellowship is the first significant investment in data science across any governmental body. The partnership initiates big data collaborations, highlighting the potential for big data analytics to reveal important insights that have societal benefits. Through this opportunity the FSA will also be part of a larger UCL research initiative through its Big Data Institute (UCL BDI).

Food will be at the heart of the collaborative project between the university and the agency as the fellowship will focus on developing new analytics methods for tracking and characterising foodborne illnesses.

Professor Guy Poppy, Chief Scientific Adviser at the FSA, commented, "data science is very exciting and has the potential to transform what the FSA does and how we can ensure the industry delivers 'food we can trust' to all UK consumers. 

"Working with UCL's Big Data Institute, we really are putting consumers first in all that we do, to ensure food is safe and what it says it is. We all eat at least a few times every day, so food is a topic well-suited to testing the effectiveness of data science approaches. It is an important collaboration for all parts of the FSA business."

Primarily funded by the FSA and based in the UCL Department of Statistical Science, the post is part of a joint Statistical Science and UCL BDI effort which aims to develop the statistical foundations of big data analysis. The fellowship follows on from the FSA 2015-20 Strategy, which highlights the agency's desire to become a data-driven organisation.

Professor Sofia Olhede, Scientific Director of UCL BDI, said, "this is a very exciting venture on the cutting-edge of big data analysis techniques. Together, we can make a huge impact in studying the complex patterns associated with the spread of foodborne illness, with an eye to early detection and prevention of disease. This is especially important for safeguarding our ageing population."

The UCL BDI tackles the challenges faced by researchers as they seek to forecast trends, and synthesise information from large unstructured data sets. Together with the Institute, the FSA wants to enhance its use of evidence and information to both tackle the challenges of today, and to identify and contribute to addressing emerging risks for the future.

To view further details and to apply for the fellowship, please see the advertisement on the UCL HR Website. Any candidates unable to apply online should contact Dr Russell Evans, email: russell.evans@ucl.ac.uk, tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8311. Informal inquiries should be addressed to Professor Sofia Olhede s.olhede@ucl.ac.uk or to Professor Patrick Wolfe p.wolfe@ucl.ac.uk.