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Big Data & Analytics Heroes: Kirk Borne

January 22, 2014

Big Data & Analytics Heroes is a recognition program created by IBM to acknowledge and highlight big data and analytics industry thought leaders. This week, our Hero is Kirk Borne, PhD. Kirk is a data scientist, top big data influencer and professor of astrophysics and computational science at George Mason University.

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How have big data and analytics impacted how you do your job today?

Big data and analytics first became a focus of my professional life about 13 years ago when it became clear to me that the amount of data (in the sciences, in society, in government, and everywhere) in the world was doubling every year. It didn't take much math to realize that this would yield a 1000x increase in data volumes within 10 years and one million times increase within 20 years. Consequently, I altered my professional focus to address this impending avalanche, with the goal of developing techniques for extracting the information and knowledge that are encoded in these massive data streams. I initially focused on learning about and then applying machine learning algorithms on data sets for the purpose of mining those data for hidden nuggets of new knowledge and insights. More recently, I have focused on data science as a more general trans-disciplinary methodology for everything that I do, covering all of aspects of data-driven work, data-driven decision-making, data-driven insights and training the next generation of knowledge workers in the art and science of data. This has become an all-consuming passion for me as the worldwide interest and attention on big data and analytics applications have skyrocketed. I am excited to be part of this revolutionary change in the way that education, business, social, government, science, health and everything are changing.

How are big data and analytics changing your business strategy?

I work in higher education, as a university professor and researcher. All of my education goals—students that I advise, commitments that I make, courses that I teach, research that I do and external contacts that I maintain—are in the direction of data science, big data and analytics. There is nothing else in my professional universe at this time. Big data and analytics are changing the way all sectors are conducting business, and I am there in the middle of it, all the way!

How can big data combined with analytics improve the world we live in in 5 to 10 years?

Big data and the methods of analytics yield a rich harvest of discovery and insights. Those approaches are phenomenally good at smashing organizational silos, bashing our biases, stripping away false assumptions and sharpening our focus on what matters the most within any problem domain. These consequences will lead to better, more effective, more efficient and more meaningful activities, which will naturally drive social, life, health, business and education improvements since the data that we are collecting and analyzing are from society, about society and for society.  We already see these developments appearing, in "smart" everything (cities, transportation, etc.) and "personalized" everything (medicine, learning, marketing, etc.). When smart people work on important, well-defined problems using rich data sets and powerful technologies, the outcomes can only be good!  

View all of our Big Data & Analytics Heroes here on the Hub, and look out for next week's Hero: Michael Cavaretta, technical leader of predictive analytics for Ford Motor Co.