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Big Data Initiative at OSU

Story: Cole Kennelly, Design: Madi Cano



As data is much more readily available now than it was in the past, there is a historically high demand for both facilities and professionals with the capacity to translate large amounts of data and inform decision-making. While technology has made data extremely accessible in recent years, there is a shortage of individuals with proper analytical skills and knowledge to understand this data. Ergo, Ohio State is building a strong brand in analytics being the first research university to create a data analytics bachelor’s degree with a growing collaborative analytical community such as Translational Data Analytics Initiative.

The Translational Data Analytics Initiative is a unique public-private coalition that was the first foundational component of Ohio State’s $500 million Discovery Themes Initiative in 2012. TDA @ OSU was funded by the university and supported by the state of Ohio in interest to establish Ohio as a global hub for developing next generation scholars and students in various areas of data analytics. There are infinite applications of these analytical skills that can be applied to every discipline from computer science to dance. It is a very exciting time to be involved with data analytics at Ohio State as the new Data Commons is coming to Oxley Hall this May, while a physical analytics hub in Pomerene Hall will by completed by spring 2018.

In order to learn more about the growing analytics initiative on campus, I was able to sit down with Dr. Elliot Bendoly, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students and Programs. Dr. Bendoly began his career an engineer at Intel in the 90’s before spending 14 years at the Emory Goizueta School of Business, then joining The Ohio State University as a professor in 2014. Dr. Bendoly is currently the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students and Programs and a Distinguished Professor of Management Sciences at The Ohio State University.

When discussing the Big Data Initiative at Ohio State, Dr. Bendoly noted that the biggest challenge in working with Big Data is that the problems span numerous disciplines. There is often a linguistic barrier between disciplines in research, which often makes it very challenging to create a comprehensive plan to make use of the available data. In reference to the multiple disciplines that comprise analytics, Dr. Bendoly said, “It’s sometimes challenging to translate the languages that these different kinds of experts might have.” Thus, Dr. Bendoly believes that different steps of a problem require different types of experts.


Oxley Hall will house the new Data Analytics Center. Image:

Dr. Bendoly believes that on campus we also face a challenge in bringing together multiple disciplines to solve real world problems.  Although, he notes that at times the team may do everything in their power but find out that the data is actually insufficient. Dr. Bendoly also made a very curious point in that data is currently connecting disciplines and moving us away from “the silo effect” proposed in a 1933 report published by the Carnegie Foundation encouraging independent activity among various disciplines. Albeit, data is connecting the world more than ever, though we still face dialectic problems in communication.

As the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students and Programs, Dr. Bendoly has a greater obligation than ever to educate the students of this university. Taking the Big Data Initiative a step further, Dr. Bendoly would like to acquire real data sets for undergraduate classrooms. On this topic, Bendoly asked, “Whenever I think of data nowadays, I’m not only thinking about it from a research perspective, but I’m also thinking about it from a pedagogical perspective – Can we use it in the classroom?” Thus, Dr. Bendoly and most proponents of TDA @ OSU believe exposure to real world data would positively impact students in all disciplines.

As far as advice for students interested in a career in data analytics, Dr. Bendoly has three traits that are essential to success in this industry. To start, Dr. Bendoly says it is extremely important to be a strong communicator to be successful in a bridging role. Being able to communicate means you have results and can convince someone of their meaning. Next, one must be aware of one’s strengths and weakness and understand that teamwork makes up for shortcomings. Lastly, Dr. Bendoly says that in order to be successful in data analytics you need mastery over some field.

Ultimately, The Ohio State University has taken a strong interest in Big Data and has heavily invested in data analytics faculty and facilities. As the Translational Data Analytics Initiative at Ohio State advances with the completion of both Pomerene and Oxley Hall renovations in the coming year, Ohio State continues to build its brand as a leader in analytics education and research. In conclusion, Dr. Bendoly provided great insight to Translational Data Analytics at Ohio State, as well as the direction and challenges that the analytics community faces.

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