June 19, 2019

UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and University of Washington lead West region collaboration

kalil chatThe National Science Foundation has doubled its support for the Regional Big Data Innovation Hubs(link is external), bringing data science research at UC Berkeley and other academic partners forward to tackle societal grand challenges alongside nonprofits, industry, and state and local governments.  

This month, the NSF has announced awards of $4 million each to four hubs over four years, increasing the investment from a first round of awards made in 2015(link is external). UC Berkeley, in collaboration with UC San Diego and the University of Washington, will continue to coordinate the 13-state West region. “We’re excited to spark new public-private partnerships and build upon our collective strengths in this next phase,” notes West Hub Executive Director and Co-Principal Investigator Meredith Lee. “Each community member has a compelling story to share and the Hub can help amplify our constituents’ impact across a diverse network.”

The West Hub’s first three years of operation have included a range of application-focused projects—developing data analysis and tools to support access to safe drinking water(link is external), better understand disease through all 20,000 human proteins(link is external), and facilitate new insights in transportation safety(link is external). The Hub also supports cross-cutting efforts to produce frameworks and resources useful to multiple areas of inquiry and practice, from data sharing and cloud computing to responsible data science.

The open-to-all civic engagement opportunities made possible with initiatives like the California Water Data Challenge(link is external) are designed to inform and build upon emerging research from multiple fields and sectors.

We are excited to harness the intellectual capital of the tech community to make the state a better place for everyone.

- California Governor Gavin Newsom

"The environmental challenges we face in California are multi-faceted, making it increasingly difficult to rely on the government alone for solutions. We are excited to harness the intellectual capital of the tech community to make the state a better place for everyone,” says California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Over the next four years with this renewed funding support, the West Big Data Innovation Hub plans to expand its collaboration with state governments, nonprofit organizations, and partners. Key initiatives will include collaborations addressing smart and connected communities, natural resources, health, responsible data sharing, and education.

Catalyzing Collaboration and Discovery

wids datathonPrincipal Investigator and Interim Dean of the UC Berkeley Division of Data Sciences David Culler says, “Through the Hub, we have fostered the kind of cross-disciplinary discovery that is central to data science at Berkeley(link is external) and so many of our regional counterparts, connecting students with high-impact, hands-on experiences that address everything from safe drinking water to the upcoming 2020 Census.” As a new service to the community, each Big Data Hub will maintain a seed fund for translational data science collaborations as part of its budget. This seed fund will provide grants to pilot early feasibility studies for innovative new solutions to grand challenges of importance to the region. The West Hub's requests for collaborative seed projects will serve to gather compelling, timely, and actionable community ideas throughout the year.

Emphasizing the opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and collaborators to contribute to the public good, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ notes that “translational research impacting society is one of the most profound and significant public benefits that the University of California offers.” Having recently addressed the first UC Berkeley graduating class of Data Science undergraduate majors, the Chancellor remarks, “The National Science Foundation support for the West Big Data Innovation Hub has enabled meaningful data science partnerships throughout campus and with our regional and global peers. The hub's culture of inclusive collaboration will be crucial as we work with and prepare our next generation of leaders.”

discoveryThe Big Data Hubs are located in each of the four census regions (Northeast, South, Midwest, and West). Each hub serves as a thought leader and convening force on social and economic challenges that are unique to the region—for example, fresh water in the West, agriculture in the Midwest, coastal flooding in the South, and aging urban infrastructure in the Northeast. Beyond their regional focus, the Big Data Hubs will act as a single national body to respond to issues that cross regions, such as the evolution of U.S. transportation infrastructure and workforce development. Embarking on the next phase of growth and national coordination, the Hubs will host an All Hubs(link is external) All Hands community data science meeting open to the public as a signature event in 2020.

“Developing innovative, effective solutions to grand challenges requires linking scientists and engineers with local communities,” said Jim Kurose, Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the NSF. “The Big Data Hubs provide the glue to achieve those links, bringing together teams of data science researchers with cities, municipalities, and anchor institutions.”

Learn more about the West Hub at is external)


West Hub Contact: sends e-mail) 510-200-8821

NSF Media Contact: sends e-mail)

Key Initiatives

The West Big Data Hub’s next four years will emphasize developing and enabling translational data science and providing broad, inclusive access to data science education and cloud computing.

Examples include:

  • Fire and Water: Data Collaboratives for the Future of Natural Resource Management. Building upon momentum from regional roundtables, workshops,online tutorials(link is external)UW Waterhackweek(link is external), the open-to-all California Water Data Challenge(link is external), and other efforts, the West Hub will focus on collaborative, user-focused projects that leverage new shared data and open access tools. This summer and fall, with additional funding from the Water Foundation and Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the West Hub will work with journalists from mainstream and ethnic media, offering fellowships that connect impacted communities with research and education efforts around water data.

  • Stress-Testing Access for Road Video: Understanding Risk and Opportunity in Data Sharing. After hosting a six-month nationwide series of community problem-solving sessions, technology demonstrations, and discussions focused on transportation safety, the West Hub will strengthen a partnership with the NSF and the Federal Highway Administration(link is external) to investigate the reversibility of tools used to de-identify video data from automobile drivers. Tied to a three-year data collection effort that produced data for more than 3,000 drivers, including 1,500 crashes and 3,000 near-crashes, this project will include community dialogue about privacy and bias.

  • Housing Instability: Trusted Data Collaborative for Responsible Data Management. Racial biases in eviction practices, rapidly increasing housing prices, and complex interactions between services to support homeless families have led to neighborhood-level inequities in urban environments and a lack of transparency in the efficacy of interventions. Through a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, and the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative(link is external), the West Hub will integrate data from multiple jurisdictions to study questions about how neighborhood change, service delivery, and demographics influence outcomes for homeless families. As part of this work, the West Hub is expanding the scope of the Trusted Data Collaborative(link is external), a socio-technical platform for responsible data governance initially used for mobility data, to support housing and population health data.

  • Access to Cloud Computing. The Hub team from UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and the University of Washington has collectively worked with more than 100 institutions across the world to understand opportunities to deploy cloud approaches for data science education and training, emphasizing reproducibility and open science. Efforts originating from the Berkeley Institute of Data Science(link is external)through Project Jupyter have led to 4.5 million publicly available Jupyter notebooks, and this next phase of the Hub will further connect the scientific community with cloud resources to broaden computing access.