Co-Directors’ introduction to the LIDA Annual: Professor Mark Birkin and Professor Chris Gale

Co-Directors' introduction to the LIDA Annual Showcase: Professor Mark Birkin and Professor Chris Gale

Since the establishment of LIDA in 2014, much has been done to realise the ambitions of our founding members to escalate data analytics research and education rapidly across disciplinary borders.  It is encouraging to note that the core activities of the institute are aligned more strongly than ever to the principles expressed in the refreshed Leeds University Strategy to support interdisciplinary research through research centres and institutes (https://spotlight.leeds.ac.uk/strategy-research-and-innovation/index.html), while capitalising fully on digital technology, data and digital approaches (https://spotlight.leeds.ac.uk/strategy/).

It is especially significant that the new strategy should highlight effective use of large data sets through careful governance, management, stewardship and storage of data, (https://spotlight.leeds.ac.uk/strategy-digital-transformation/index.html) since LIDA management has undertaken a massive commitment in the last year to completing the delivery of the LASER platform.  As this project moves into its next phase, we look forward to continuing to develop our network of research users to capitalise on this powerful and distinctive asset.  We are grateful to both Roy Ruddle and Dom Frankis for the huge volumes of energy and determination which they have brought to the leadership of this process.  The Data Analytics Team now also enjoys new leadership following the promotion of Adam Keeley, and we wish Adam all success in the continued development of this team and its capabilities.  Please do contact Dom, Roy or Adam if you would like to find out more about the power and potential of LASER.

The fresh approach which has been introduced by Alex Frangi in his first year as Director of Research has helped to shape, extend and reinvigorate LIDA’s research communities.  The more robust structures, but more importantly increasing participation in these activities leaves the institute better placed than ever to grasp the opportunities ahead.  For readers in any doubt about the importance of our work, the UK government’s AI Strategy, published in September 2021 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy), would make informative reading.  It should leave you in no doubt that data analytics and artificial intelligence will be permanent fixtures in the economic and social life of our nation for years to come.  The partnership between Leeds and The Alan Turing Institute means that LIDA is ideally placed to capitalise on these global trends, with the University in a stronger position following the recruitment of an extended cohort of Turing Fellows in 2021.  It is especially pleasing to see a healthy increase in representation of computer scientists and mathematicians, providing enhanced capacity in foundational data science and AI to complement ongoing strength across application domains.

We were delighted to welcome Paul Baxter as incoming Director for Education and Training in June 2021.  LIDA was never conceived with a pure focus on research, and national policy documents are now equally clear on the importance of enhanced training and building capacity e.g. in relation to long-term needs in the AI strategy, or ‘data skills for a data driven economy’ in the National Data Strategy (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-national-data-strategy).  It has been especially encouraging to see the rapid emergence of a collaboration between Schools and Faculties to promote new online programmes in data science.  We hope that these will come to be seen as initial steps to underpin long-term success in this space, as LIDA seeks to establish a broader portfolio of modules and programmes.  An asset base including short-courses, postgraduate training and a unique internship programme which continues to thrive will provide robust foundations for further growth.

Readers will excuse us we hope from acknowledging explicitly the achievements of our colleagues in the leadership team in advancing the strategic objectives of LIDA over this last year.  We should be clear however that the many successes of the Institute rest on contributions of the many and not the few.  We are grateful to all those who have contributed specific material for incorporation within this Showcase, and to that much larger body of people with responsibility for any aspect of LIDA’s work.  Indeed we would like to recognise and thank everyone who has been involved with LIDA in any capacity from user engagement to coordination, delivery, management and leadership.  We would look forward to your continued involvement in future years so that our collective strength may take us to ever greater achievements.

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