NASA Issues Big Data Challenge

Space agency partners with the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation to find creative ways to handle huge government data sets.

Patience Wait, Contributor

October 5, 2012

2 Min Read

IW500: 15 Top Government Tech Innovators

IW500: 15 Top Government Tech Innovators

IW500: 15 Top Government Tech Innovators (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation have created a competition to develop new ways to capitalize on the vast amounts of data generated by the federal government.

The Big Data Challenge invites the public to participate in a series of contests aimed at identifying ways to analyze and share large amounts of data across government, using information sets drawn from the health, energy, and earth science fields. The top three finishers will receive $500 each in prize money.

The competition will be hosted by the NASA Tournament Lab, under the auspices of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program (NITRD).

[ Government has a lot of data that industry wants. See Unlocking Big Government Data: Whose Job Is It? ]

"Big data is characterized not only by the enormous volume or the velocity of its generation, but also by the heterogeneity, diversity, and complexity of the data," Suzi Iacono, co-chair of the interagency Big Data Senior Steering Group, part of NITRD, said in a statement on the competition. "There are enormous opportunities to extract knowledge from these large-scale diverse data sets, and to provide powerful new approaches to drive discovery and decision-making, and to make increasingly accurate predictions. We're excited to see what this competition will yield."

The competition will be run by the NASA Tournament Lab, itself a collaboration among NASA, Harvard University, and TopCoder, a community of more than 400,000 digital creators.

Four contests are planned. The first is an "ideation challenge" seeking ideas for tools and techniques that can smooth out the gaps in disparate data sources and subjects.

The White House announced a federal big data initiative in March. Since then, several agencies and companies have announced projects to find ways to capitalize on the government's vast data stores. In June, for instance, IBM and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced a partnership to provide access to the lab's supercomputer, Vulcan, to businesses, non-profits, and government agencies looking to tackle problems that big data may be able to solve.

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Patience Wait


Washington-based Patience Wait contributes articles about government IT to InformationWeek.

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