New focal point for data sciences at NUS


28 May 2016

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has launched a new research institute that will be the focal point for all data science research and translation, education and related activities across the university.

The Institute of Data Science (IDS) will be a key part of the NUS’ Smart Nation Cluster which encompasses the upcoming National Cybersecurity Laboratory, NUS’ operations research group and a number of new research centres and collaborations.

NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan said the university has extensive strengths in data analytics, operations research and cybersecurity. “The new NUS Institute of Data Science will coordinate these interdisciplinary efforts and create a critical mass of researchers focused on this important area of research. It will also accelerate the translation of fundamental research into impactful solutions in areas such as healthcare and education that will benefit individuals, businesses and institutions in Singapore and beyond.”

Established with an initial investment of S$12 million over five years, IDS will work closely with academic and industry partners as well as government agencies to address challenging real-world problems that are unique to Singapore and Asia.

For a start, the institute is exploring two potential research thrusts. The first involves the development of technologies to identify, model and predict the flow of talents across geographical regions over time. Tools could be developed to automatically create and validate talent profiles from multiple unstructured data sources, and analyse these profiles to better understand talent flows. The findings may provide valuable information about factors contributing to the flow of talents, which may have implications on talent-related policies of businesses and government agencies.

The second research thrust could focus on developing a framework to enhance search. In the context of diabetes, for example, this would enable Internet users to make more informed decisions when they use the internet as a source of information. The project may involve the analysis of a large collection of search queries to understand the needs of information seekers and offer insights into how behaviours are shaped through information obtained online. This could lead to predictions of trends on usage of certain drugs and intervention measures.

At the start-up phase, more than 20 NUS faculty members from various disciplines – from computer science, mathematics and medicine to public health, public policy, statistics and social sciences – will be involved in IDS’ research projects. At steady state, IDS is expected to have about 100 researchers and staff working on a broad spectrum of data science research projects.

Another of IDS’ core missions is to develop the next generation of data scientists and equip them with a good grasp of knowledge in mathematics, statistics, computing and the application domains. In line with this, IDS will provide a total of 50 scholarships over five years to train PhD students in data science and data analytics. Undergraduate students will also have opportunities to be exposed to translational research as part of their academic projects.

During the launch of IDS, NUS also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft to collaborate on data science education and research. As part of the collaboration, Microsoft will provide its Cortana Intelligence Suite Education Programme to NUS faculties and schools.

Students will be provided with grants to access Cortana Intelligence Suite, Microsoft’s fully managed big data and advanced analytics service on the cloud. They will also have access to Microsoft’s data science and big data curriculum and consultancy and support from the company’s technical experts and data scientists. Microsoft will also provide its Advanced Analytics Process and Technology (ADAPT) to enable the building and deploying of predictive models at NUS.