Learning the nuts and bolts of data integration: A Data Start Fellow’s perspective


Aziz Eram reflects on her DataStart experience.

Aziz Eram, a master’s student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock studying information quality, is one of six graduate students who participated in the South Big Data Hub’s DataStart Program. DataStart provides funding that allows talented graduate students to work as student fellows with startups who need data science talent. She served her summer fellowship with Black Oak Analytics in Little Rock. Below are her thoughts about the program.

My name is Aziz Eram and I had the opportunity to intern at Black Oak Analytics, a Little Rock data startup, through a DataStart Fellowship managed by the South Big Data Hub. I did not come to the program with any industry knowledge, but I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and statistics and also a master’s in applied mathematics. I was excited to be hired as an intern at Black Oak and to say that I have learned a lot in my internship is an understatement. I have grown tremendously, learning foundational data mining and data-driven marketing skills. Black Oak Analytics is a company that provides advanced solutions that allow organizations of any size to convert data into recommendations and actions designed to improve profitability, competitiveness, and customer satisfaction.

What does the company actually do? Once you gather large amounts of data about your customers and prospects, the quality controls around that data often remain a low priority. The effectiveness and success of any solution is directly tied to the quality and organization of the data it is based on. Poor data quality can be costly and damage a company’s reputation. By assessing the full lifecycle of an organization’s data, from initial source acquisition through internal and external systems, Black Oak Analytics can identify areas in which improvements can be made to the quality and treatment of data. Black Oak uses software called the High Performance Entity Resolution System (HiPER), an entity identity information management system that supports the full lifecycle of entity identity information. Also Black Oak offers a rock-solid data governance plan to help customers make sense of their most valuable asset.

Black Oak’s mission is to a become their clients’ trusted partner by helping them manage information as a corporate asset and use it as a competitive differentiator. The talent that surrounded me at Black Oak was fantastic and I am very fortunate to have worked for a company that values collaboration, creativity, and culture. This internship gave me the opportunity to get my foot in the door while building on my education, helped me develop professionally, and fueled my confidence.

My internship mainly focused on data integration of unstructured entity references. The primary goal of my work was to develop and test a more general approach to the problem of resolving entity references in free text format. To do this I have been using HiPER, which runs as a stand-alone entity identity management service and mainly focuses on increasing both reliability and matching of data. HiPER has a plugin interface that builds custom comparators in addition to a wide array of built-in, industry standard comparator functions.

Many industries and companies have data that exists in free text format, such as merchant/transaction descriptions on credit card statements, retail inventory details, medical and pharmacy records, etc. I was provided with two main data sets:

  • Lender name data sourced from public record information. This kind of data is mostly used by third party data compilers to create hotline marketing files of new homeowners and new borrowers.
  • Credit card transaction data from one of the top three credit card issuers in the country.

My task was to design and implement two new comparators called Business Parser and MAC (Multi-Valued Attribute Comparator). The Business Parser Comparator helps to match different unstructured data to a single structured data identifier. For example: “FREEDOM MTG CORP,“ “FREEDOM MOBILE HM SALES INC” and “FREEDOM MTG CONSULTANTS INC” were matched to a single identity “FREEDOM MORTGAGE CORPORATION.” While Business Parser generates a matching link based only on one identity attribute, MAC generates a matching link based on more than one attribute.

How will these comparators be useful?  If the data is in structured format it will be useful to organizations in many ways. For example, it can be used to generate more accurate reports, which in turn can result in improved inventory management, elimination of inconsistent pricing, improved sales, and improved operational efficiencies.  A majority of my work at Black Oak Analytics dealt with entity resolution practices.

I have learned many different skills during my internship, including data mining, data matching, and data linking, and these will all help me to build my career in data science.  I want to thank my supervisors, Steve Sample and Dr. John Talburt, the HiPER team, and all the members of Black Oak for supporting and guiding me. Without their help, I would not have been able to complete the project. Last but not the least, I am extremely thankful to the DataStart program for giving me this wonderful opportunity to work with these amazing people.

DataStart is supported in part by the Computing Research Association’s Computing Community Consortium.

NIH BD2K offers lecture series on fundamentals of data science

As big data becomes ubiquitous in research and business, more and more people are finding they need guidance on how to make the most of their data and follow best practices. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative recognizes that for biomedical researchers and clinicians to take full advantage of the data revolution they need…well, data—in the form of training, guidelines, expert advise, use cases, and more.

To meet this need, the BD2K now offers a virtual lecture series on the data science underlying biomedical research, featuring weekly presentations from experts on the fundamentals of data management, representation, computation, statistical inference, data modeling, and other topics relevant to big data in biomedicine. The BD2K Guide to the Fundamentals of Data Science Series offers live streaming presentations every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time. The presentations are also recorded and posted online for future viewing and reference.

Two sessions are already online: Introduction to Big Data and the Data Lifecycle, and Data Indexing and Retrieval. They can be viewed on YouTube here. The next live presentation, called Finding and Accessing Data Sets, Indexing and Identifiers, will be held Sept. 23 and will feature Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD, and chair of the department of biomedical informatics at the University of California at San Diego.

There is no cost for attending or viewing a presentation and no registration is required. For more information about the series, including a list of upcoming lectures, visit the BD2K Training Coordinating Center website.



South Hub Sponsors Materials and Advanced Manufacturing Workshop


On August 25, nearly sixty people gathered for a workshop on Data Infrastructure for Materials and Advanced Manufacturing. Attendees came from throughout the southern US to attend the event, sponsored by the South Big Data Hub and the Computing Community Consortium, to assess and deliberate on the current state of the data infrastructure supporting the accelerated insertion of new and advanced materials into commercial products.

Stakeholders from industry, academia, national laboratories, and nonprofits convened to share their perspectives on challenges surrounding the use of data and informatics in materials discovery and development, and advanced manufacturing. The expertise of participants spanned materials science and engineering, design and manufacturing sciences, and computer and data sciences.

Speakers from industry included Rick Barto of Lockheed-Martin, Kaisheng Wu of Thermo-Calc, Bryce Meredig of Citrine Informatics, Ramesh Subramanian of Siemens, and Rajiv Naik of Pratt & Whitney. In addition, Chuck Ward from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Turab Lookman from Los Alamos National Laboratory also presented from their perspectives.

Following the talks, a series of smaller concurrent breakout sessions formed to discuss feasible crossover areas between industry and academic research. Michael Valley of Sandia National Laboratories moderated the session “high impact applications of data science in the materials-manufacturing sector.” Daniel Wheeler from the National Institute of Standards and Technology moderated a discussion on “challenges in the automation of the materials data life-cycle.” Raymundo Arroyave from Texas A&M University moderated a session on “education and training in materials-manufacturing data science and informatics.” David Fries of the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition was the moderator of a discussion on “the materials-manufacturing innovation cyber-ecosystem.”

The whole group then reconvened for two all-inclusive round table discussions. Jason Hattrick-Simpers from the University of South Carolina, and David McDowell of Georgia Tech drove a discussion on developing a set of objectives and an associated roadmap for those. Surya Kalidindi of Georgia Tech led a discussion on establishing an advanced materials and manufacturing “Spoke” at the South Big Data Hub.

After a reception poster session, the event closed with a call to action to collect resources, create an online community for locating resources and for networking, and to develop an administration transition paper. Co-Executive Director Renata Rawlings Goss is currently seeking leadership roles in developing resources for this new community. To participate, please contact her at rrawlings.goss@gatech.edu.

September* Opportunities and Announcements

[*September and beyond]

Dear South Big Data Hub Community,

This post contains the content that went out in our monthly newsletter–a listing of news, events, and opportunities in data science, analytics, engineering, and policy. If you have announcements or information that you would like to submit for next month’s newsletter or if you would like to contribute a guest post to the South Big Data Hubbub! blog, please use our submission form or email announcements@southbdhub.org.

The South Big Data Hub Team

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DataBridge tackles the problem of ‘dark data’

databridge-logo-final-copyDataBridge, a National Science Foundation-funded project to make research data more discoverable and usable by a wide community of scientists, has the green light to expand its work into the neuroscience community, thanks to a new NSF EAGER award.

The award itself is relatively small (less than $100,000) and will allow the researchers to consult with neuroscientists, develop a prototype DataBridge for Neuroscience (DBfN), and a community workshop. However, the impact could be significant for a hot scientific field that is making breakthrough discoveries about the human brain. Continue reading

Startup Plus Grad Student Internship Proves to be a Winning Combination

Combine young companies led by bright entrepreneurs with talented graduate students eager to use their skills and something good is bound to happen.

A case in point is data.world, an Austin, Texas-based startup dedicated to making data (such as U.S. Census data) more accessible and usable; and Jonathan Ortiz, a graduate student in the data analytics program at the University of Texas at Austin.

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August Opportunities & Events

The following opportunities and events went out to all of our mailing list subscribers:

Get Involved

South Hub Working Groups:

Data Sharing and Infrastructure Working Group

The South Big Data Hub Community Engagement Working Group will be meeting for the second time in August. If you would like to participate, please fill out the doodle poll by Monday, August 8th: http://doodle.com/poll/ivp4mutfde9sfvys. The Data Sharing and Infrastructure working group is developing a vision for shared cyberinfrastructure, services, and resources across the Hub, and is initiating an asset mapping and needs assessment effort. Initial calls will be open. The first working group call provided presentations by Reagan Moore (UNC RENCI) on the NSF DataNet Federation Consortium, Jason Coposky (UNC RENCI) on the iRODS consortium, Mike Conway (UNC RENCI) on NSF-sponsored CyVerse, Len Fishman on Data.World, and Victor Hazlewood on JICS and XSEDE. For the notes from the first meeting held on July 13th, please visit: https://southbdhub.hackpad.com/Data-Sharing-and-Infrastructure-LWYOq94rXYP. To join the working group, please contact Lea Shanley at lshanley@renci.org.

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South Hub Goes to Washington!

Left to right: Lea Shanley, Srinivas Aluru, Fen Zhao, Renata Rawlings-Goss, Dan Stazione, Stan Ahalt, Melvin Greer

Representatives of the South Hub including Principal Investigators Srinivas Aluru and Stan Ahalt, and Co-Executive Directors Renata Rawlings-Goss and Lea Shanley met in Washington, D.C. for congressional briefings to educate staff on the importance and impact of data science, as well as on the activities of the South Big Data Hub.   Continue reading

South Hub Sponsors a Fall Workshop Series

The South Hub is sponsoring several workshops this fall, and registration for these events is now open. Participants come from academic research institutions across the 16 states that comprise the South Big Data Innovation Hub and industrial partners across the country. Some workshops will have limits concerning attendees due to space, and there are also a limited number of travel awards available. View more about all of these workshops by visiting http://southbdhub.org/workshops.html.   Continue reading

South Big Data Hub DataStart fellow reflects on lessons learned

By Jonathan Ortiz, DataStart Fellow, data.world, Austin, Texas

Jonathan Ortiz trying his hand at the data.world slackline.

As the summer semester passes its halfway point, I take a moment to reflect on just what an amazing summer it has been and think ahead to what is in store for the second half. I am a Data Analytics and Big Data student at The University of Texas at Austin, and this summer I have had the exciting opportunity to work with data.world, an Austin data startup, through a DataStart fellowship managed by the South Big Data Hub with support from the Computing Community Consortium and the National Science Foundation.

data.world is a data platform that helps people work together to solve important problems faster. I believe, as the good folks at data.world believe, that the barriers that divide data and people are artifacts from a less-connected era. In a time when more and more open data is created every day, only a tiny fraction—less than 1%—of all the data that gets collected and stored is ever analyzed, according to an IDC report.   Continue reading