Collaboration is Key to Making the Most of Big Data


On May 13th Mendeley Co-founder Jan Reichelt took part in a really exciting event hosted by the Big Data Institute, which was born out of a partnership between Reed Elsevier and UCL last year. For a whole day, major players from across business, education and academia got together to discuss what the big idea is with big data and education.

Olivier Dumon, MD of Academic and Government Markets at Elsevier, kicked things off  by talking about their transition from print publishing to digital analytics, and how the acquisition of Mendeley and the partnership with UCL tie into Reed Elsevier’s future strategy for innovation.


“Eventually data will surpass crude oil in importance,” said Claude Kirchner from Inria (a public research body dedicated to digital science and technology), talking about the rising popularity of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and the widespread benefits that can be achieved by gathering insights from big data into the process of learning itself.


It was clear that big data was high on the government’s agenda too, on a national as well as an European level. Malcolm Scott, Deputy Director, Data Strategy and Creative Industries, represented the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (which recently announced £73 million of new funding to help unlock the potential of big data), and Androulla Vassillou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth sent a video message saying it was important that Europe was at the forefront of developments around big data.


The Vice Provost of UCL, David Price stressed the importance of big data as a research and collaboration tool, but he certainly wasn’t the only one to pick up on that theme, as collaboration and communication echoed everywhere as the key words of the day:

The problem, says Xavier Prats Monne, Deputy DG for Education at European Commission, is that educators, businesses and ministries do not communicate with one another naturally. “It is the duty of EC to facilitate communication.” What is needed, according to Elizabeth Crossick, Head of Government Affairs at Reed Elsevier, is a collaborative rather than combative approach. “This is an area of constant change – progress will not be made unless we collaborate.” John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE, heartily agreed:  “There needs to be collaboration across borders, bringing all parties to the conversation,” he said.

Gabriel Hughes (who’s Xoogler and honorary Mendeleyan as well as VP Analytics as Elsevier) then delivered an inspiring presentation about the skills we need to harness in order to take advantage of big data properly and leverage it to make researchers more productive: “There needs to be interaction between skill sets – between data scientists with knowledge of processing and analysis. The ability to collaborate and communicate with others to solve problems is essential.”


 “Remember that big data is community based,” said Daniel Hulme from Satalia, a company that works on algorithmic solutions. “we must build groups to solve problems and use platforms to gather data and use that to innovate.” Jan Muehlfeit, Chairman Europe at Microsoft, agreed that with education becoming global and students collaborating with others across borders, teamwork is absolutely vital. “There needs to be continual feedback from the users of Big Data to improve its potential.”


Jan Reichelt said that encouraging collaboration and productivity was key to Mendeley’s success, and that the platform thrived by socializing big data to give it context and create a better user experience. “Companies should use big data to offer a personalized service that is above the norm, to give users what they want. We drive a social discovery engine, and if you aggregate this activity in the cloud, you can derive tremendous insights, adding a new layer to how we look at science.” He talked about the possibilities, some of which Mendeley already offers, to track how people are interacting with your research, and measuring impact in real time rather than waiting two years for citations to trickle through. On a wider question, he reflected on the positive feedback that Mendeley gets from the community about how it makes research more fun (or at least less painful!) and he asks “Why can’t we make research, which was really tedious and boring, why can’t we make it fun? Why can’t we make school, education fun?” Why not indeed.

What do you think? Does big data affect your work and research? Will it mean something different in the future? Join the big conversation!


Infographics by Scriberia


One thought on “Collaboration is Key to Making the Most of Big Data

  1. Yes, the collaboration (provided that it’s effective) is a rare case when 2+2 is not equal to 4, but it’s rather equal to 5 or even more. The synergetic effect of collecting the big data all in one place and givign access to individuals who might contribute to the end result definitely has positive effects for the project outcomes and clients’ satisfaction.

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