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A brief summary of the first Big Data Europe SC6 Workshop: The challenges of big data for societies in a changing world

The workshop took place at Eurostat in Luxembourg on 18 November 2015 and attracted 42 participants. It hosted speakers with a policy and data management/providing background (European Commission, Eurostat) and a technical background from within the BDE project (Fraunhofer IAIS, SWC).

The aim of the workshop was twofold, on the one hand the to deliver some results from the project and start a discussion on big data in the social sciences, and on the other to gather input from the stakeholders present at the workshop in order to influence the design of the new big data platform delivered by the BigDataEurope project, and as they will ultimately benefit from the platform.

Through four parallel sessions, the workshop explored the data already in place in the social sciences, the risks challenges of data management of big data, as well as the potentials, touching next on the legal and policy issues associated with big data, and the technological demands.

The workshop revealed that data is now much more than what it used to be when it was just collected from surveys, with two main sources identified, digital footprinting (mobile phones, online shopping, financial transactions, etc.) and sensors. Furthermore, official statistics used to have a monopoly on data but this is no longer the case, as there is an increasing ‘datafication’ of all human activities.

The workshop also informed that there are three main elements of big data for statisticians: data deluge, data analytics and a data-driven economy, populated by industry. What’s more, the third “v” of big data, variety, was deemed the most important topic for the social sciences, though the importance of the real value of the data was also brought up (what to do with the data). Participants learnt that the social sciences are a bit behind in terms of investments in the area of big data.

A full report will follow, watch this space!

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