A national Big Data consortium is launching from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the goal of identifying problems with and finding solutions for working with large amounts of data.

The National Consortium for Data Science, or NCDS, will be based at UNC’s Renaissance Computing Institute, or RENCI.

RENCI spokeswoman Karen Green told WRAL Tech Wire that the idea for the initiative emerged from work RENCI does with other academic institutions and businesses. University researchers and industry researchers often encounter similar problems working with Big Data but they don’t often work together to find solutions. NCDS aims to do that.

“It’s a chance for the two pipelines, that often work in their own little worlds, to cross pollinate more,” Green said. “It’s a little early to know how that will happen. But I think it will happen in ways we haven’t imagined yet.”

The founding members of NCDS include heavy hitters in industry; Cisco Systems, GE, IBM, NetApp and SAS. Nonprofit and government members are The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, MCNC, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, RTI International and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Academia is represented on NCDS by UNC, North Carolina State University, UNC Charlotte, UNC General Administration, and Duke University. Drexel University in Philadelphia, which was already part of a national project that RENCI is working on, is also part of the consortium.

The effort to form NCDS has been in the planning for about a year. Stanley Ahalt, director of RENCI spearheaded the effort to identify potential members and organize NCDS. Membership fees will support the organization though specific membership level details are still being determined. But members could work together to apply for grants from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation to support particular projects. NCDS is still in its early stages and no proposals yet been formed, Green said.

The consortium does have its first event planned. Eric Green, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and acting director of the new National Institutes of Health Data Science Program, will be speaking about Big Data on April 23 at the Friday Center for Continuing Education in Chapel Hill. Eric Green’s talk will be followed by the consortium’s first “Leadership Summit.”

This year, the summit will tackle applications of genomic data in health care. About 75 data and genomics leaders from around the country are expected to participate in the summit. The group will be charged with identifying the challenges that need to be addressed in the next five years. Karen Green said that the goal is to have the annual summit focus on a specific data issue in a particular field.