Conference notes: MBDH All-Hands Meeting (March 21-22, Chicago)
By: Ayaz Hyder

I recently attended the All-Hands Meeting of the Midwest Big Data Hub (MBDH), which is funded by the NSF’s Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs program. The best way to describe the meeting in Chicago would be to imagine the networking events organized by TDA@OhioState multiplied by five. The range of activities going on around big data in the Midwest region was so great that I stopped counting after the first few presentations. At the meeting there was only one other OSU researcher, so this post is intended to introduce and update the TDA community about MBDH happenings and future plans and, hopefully, to encourage more OSU researchers to take part.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together data science researchers from across the region regardless of how “big” their data and area of research. There were researchers from digital agriculture, materials science, health care, network science, big data education, food-water-energy, metropolitan sciences/smart cities, and business analytics. In addition, there were presentations on the latest tools and services available to MDBH participants (anyone can join for free), as well as ongoing and upcoming education initiatives.

The figure shown below gives a broad overview of how MBDH is organized, with the rings indicating support systems available for each of the projects or spokes that make up the Hub.


Some specifics from the meeting—including research resources to be aware of—that may be relevant to the TDA community:

  1. Geospatial data Analysis Building Blocks (GABBs) is a “web-based system that will allow researchers worldwide to manage, curate, share, analyze and visualize geospatial data for purposes ranging from predicting damaging floods to projecting climate change effects on the poor. Builds geospatial data hosting, processing and sharing capabilities into the HUBzero platform.”
  2. CyberGIS Toolkit is “a suite of loosely coupled open-source geospatial software components that provide computationally scalable spatial analysis and modeling capabilities enabled by advanced cyberinfrastructure.” ROGER (Resourcing Open Geospatial Education and Research) is their latest supercomputer.
  3. Terra Populus “integrates the world’s population and environmental data, including population censuses and surveys; land cover data classified from satellite imagery; temperature, precipitation, and related climate data based on weather station measurements; and land use data derived from censuses and surveys in combination with remotely sensed data.”
  4. Plenario is “a centralized hub for open datasets from around the world, ready to search and download.” Plenario may also be used as an open data portal for small cities.
  5. Great Plains Network organizes education and workshop opportunities around Big Data and Digital Agriculture.
  6. Indiana University Network Science Institute is one of the newest institutes of its kind and plans to serve as a central hub for network science activities in the Midwest.
  7. Plans were discussed for a Big Data Education Council to coordinate big data education across all levels in the Midwest.
  8. A long list of tools, services, and resources are listed here, and there are many more to come in the future.

Upcoming events and calls for proposals at the Midwest Big Data Hub
Convening of Urban Data Science (April 27-29, Chicago)
Digital Agriculture Meeting (May 16-17, Iowa State University)

About The Author

Dr. Hyder’s research goal is to understand the role of multiple determinants of human health (e.g., social, environmental, biological) operating at multiple levels of organization (e.g., gene to society, space and time). He uses mathematical, statistical and computational approaches (e.g., systems science methods) to bring together theory, data and methods from multiple disciplines to build and validate predictive models of health. These models are further linked with health economics (e.g. cost-effectiveness analysis) to provide policy makers with tools to make better decisions.

Current areas of research include childhood asthma, the interplay of residential segregation and poverty traps on lifetime health trajectories, and environmental health disparities in preterm birth. He is also interested in questions about residential mobility, infectious diseases, and the role of place on health.


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