New Jersey Universities Work to Advance Computing Innovation and Education in the State

Nine of the state’s top universities have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to formally establish the New Jersey Big Data Alliance (NJBDA). Members of the NJBDA are Rutgers University, Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Kean University, Rowan University, St. Peter’s University, Stockton University, Stevens Institute of Technology, and the newest members of the Alliance, The College of New Jersey and New Jersey Research and Education Network (NJEDge.Net), a non-profit technology network of academic and research institutions in New Jersey.  The formation of the NJBDA was a grassroots effort by these universities and NJEDge.Net to pool resources and expertise in order to build capabilities in advanced computing and big data for New Jersey.

Advanced cyberinfrastructure is the hardware, software, networks and human expertise used to store, manage, transport and analyze massive quantities of digital information, known as “big data.”   “Big data” refers to the massive volume of structured and unstructured data produced by the proliferation of data sources such as smartphones, wearable technology, sensors and other forms of digital devices.  Advanced computing is used in every discipline and industry sector, and has become an essential resource for innovation and growth.

The NJBDA brings together the diverse advanced cyberinfrastructure resources and talent housed at the state’s universities and colleges and to identify areas of synergy, develop joint educational and research programs, provide advanced computation resources to industry, build an effective alliance that will increase the competitiveness of New Jersey’s institutions of higher education and industry, and drive economic development in the state.

“The signing of the MOA by nine of the state’s top universities and NJEDge.Net is key to making New Jersey a leader in advanced computing and big data analytics,” explained Dr. Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, Rutgers Associate Vice President for Economic Development and a founder of the NJBDA. “The fact that the Alliance members pro-actively created this organization to increase access to advanced cyberinfrastructure technologies and big data expertise by academia, industry and government demonstrates the commitment that we have to establish New Jersey as a leader in this field.”

The NJBDA received official state designation with the passage of the “Big Data Bill” (A2218/S582) in 2014, spearheaded by Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17). The bill designated the New Jersey Big Data Alliance as the “State’s Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Consortium.”  A second Assembly Bill, A2075, names the NJBDA, the State Office of Information Technology, and Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute, as partners to develop a state cyberinfrastructure plan.  The bill calls for an assessment of the State’s cyberinfrastructure and the creation of a roadmap and strategies for implementing advanced cyberinfrastructure improvements throughout the State. This bill is currently in committee.

“This agreement and the accomplishments of the NJBDA are a model for other States to emulate as they develop and advance their own analytics capabilities and programs,” added Liz Rowe, Chief Data Officer for the State of New Jersey.  “The close collaboration between academia, industry, and government on this effort will not only advance cyberinfrastructure in the State but also create and fortify the connections needed to develop and deploy the common standards and practices required to enable predictive and prescriptive analytics across multiple disciplines, while ensuring privacy and security of the data.”

The NJBDA is planning its 4th annual symposium at the New Jersey Institute of Technology for March 16th, 2017. This year’s theme is “Big Data Connects.”  The alliance is also working on an industry affiliate program to engage business partners.  “Industry participation is of critical importance to the alliance and the state. We are working closely with the industry partners, several of whom sponsored and participated in the third symposium hosted at Montclair State University last year,” said Dr. Rashmi Jain, Chair and Professor, Department of Information Management and Business Analytics at Montclair State University.

Membership in the NJBDA is open to higher education institutions, industry, government, and non-profits. Being a member of the NJBDA enables stakeholders to provide input and guidance on academic course development, topics for training and workshops, research needs and projects, and the strategic direction of the NJBDA.

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