UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


UCL to host one of eight new PhD training centres to boost UK's data science expertise

26 October 2017

Data intensive science in the UK has received a major boost thanks to an investment of almost £10million to train the next generation of experts in this important research area.

Image from Pixabay

The constant advancement of computer technology has had a profound impact on science and industry, making possible some of the most important discoveries in recent years.

Thanks to increasingly powerful technology, researchers can gather, store and utilise vast amounts of data - but to make sense of this data, many more expert scientists are needed to ensure the UK takes full advantage.

The UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is supporting eight new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in data intensive science to address this skills need.

The centres include industrial partners and will offer comprehensive training in data intensive science through cutting edge research projects and a targeted academic training programme. This will be complemented by secondments to national and international partners.

The eight new Centres will be based at 19 universities - the Universities of Cambridge, Cardiff/Bristol/Swansea, Durham, Edinburgh/Glasgow/St Andrews, Liverpool/LJMU, Manchester /Lancaster/Sheffield, Southampton/Sussex/Portsmouth/Queen Mary/Open and UCL.

The bulk of the funding comes from the £90million allocated for 1,000 new PhD places across all the UK's Research Councils, announced in the 2017 Spring Budget as part of the National Productivity Investment Fund.

Through this funding, UCL will be supporting 17 PhD students, who will be trained to analyse data from astrophysics, accelerator science, nuclear or particle physics research, as well as to problems posed by industry and other organisations.

Professor Nikos Konstantinidis, UCL's Department of Physics and Astronomy will be co-directing the university's CDT, said: "We are delighted to be part of this exciting STFC initiative. UCL has a long-standing tradition of excellence in data intensive science, with pioneering contributions and leading roles on many international projects in particle physics and astronomy, as well as a strong culture of cross-disciplinary research and collaboration between academia and industry. The UCL Centre will build on these strengths to train the next generation of data science leaders, and to accelerate the development and application of pioneering data intensive science techniques that promise to offer great benefits to the UK economy and to enrich the STFC science programme."

Modern observational and experimental facilities produce mountains of data and sifting through that data manually would take years. This is where the data scientists come in.

Data-intensive science utilises sophisticated computational, statistical and programming techniques, including artificial intelligence and machine learning to extract insights from huge datasets to make new discoveries.

STFC's Executive Director of Programmes Professor Grahame Blair said: "This investment will not only bring on the next generation of much-needed data scientists with the skills and knowledge to become leaders in the field, it will be crucial in ensuring the UK research sector and the UK economy remains competitive on the world stage."