Ulster University has been announced as one of just eight UK universities to form a major five-year research partnership with BBC Research and Development to unlock the potential of data analysis in the media.
The Data Science Research Partnership will be at the forefront of machine learning in the media industry, helping create a more personal BBC that can inform, educate and entertain in new ways.
The partnership brings together industry experts from across the BBC and world-leading UK data scientists from Ulster University, with the Universities of Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh and Surrey, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, and University College London.
Ulster University will contribute its wealth of research and sectoral expertise from media and journalism, film and television to data analytics. The university’s advanced research into data driven journalism and viewer engagement will be of particular relevance to the partnership.
The partnership will also collaborate with media and technology organisations from across the UK, Europe and internationally on a range of projects. These will focus on the following four areas, all combining anonymised BBC data with cutting-edge algorithms and analytics. The aim is to create a body of research, insights and prototypes that can start making a real impact on the BBC and its audiences.
The research will assist with:
- Understanding audiences: Use data to better understand what audiences want from the BBC, why they want it, and what impact these programmes or services have on them
- Understanding content: Explore what machine learning can teach the BBC about its programmes and services,and what it stands to gain from it
- Curation and personalisation: Create a more personal BBC, designing tools and algorithms to help programme makers with editorial and commissioning decisions
- Content of the future: Design future audience experiences, based on BBC R&D’s object-based broadcasting concept, and new forms of data journalism
Alongside this will be a range of educational opportunities to help the BBC and its staff improve the skills they’ll need in a data-driven future. This will include the development of tailored courses ranging from entry-level to advanced, MSc Data Science apprenticeships, and secondments between the BBC and all the research partners, including Ulster University.
Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice Chancellor Ulster University said, “Ulster University continues to work at the forefront of data analytics, pioneering advances across multiple domains including health and medical research, financial technology, international finance, advanced manufacturing and energy and, media.
“With the launch of our Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory earlier this year, the first data analytics institute in Northern Ireland, Ulster University cemented its reputation as a global leader, a position which is now even further enhanced by this partnership with the BBC.
“Combined with our work in the broader creative industries and the development of industry-relevant courses, this partnership will see Ulster University play an integral role in shaping the future of broadcasting. It will ensure that one of the world’s biggest public service broadcast organisations can fully harness the power of data and computer systems with cognitive thought processes to deliver unrivalled audience experience.”
Matthew Postgate, the BBC’s Chief Technology and Product Officer, said, “The BBC has always been at its best when it combines creativity with technology. As we reinvent the BBC, we can see the opportunities that data and machine learning are opening up for us, our creative talent and our audiences. This partnership will help us break new ground and ensure we continue giving audiences the very best in public service broadcasting well into the future.”
Samantha Chadwick, Head of Partnerships, BBC R&D, said, “Machine learning is going to play an increasingly important role in the world. Together with our partners and funding bodies, we want to apply these advances in data science to the media industry, and to make a real difference to people’s lives. The partnership will also address the scarcity of data scientists in the UK, training a new generation of data scientists on real media problems, to create new audience experiences that don’t even exist yet.”
At the announcement in London today, Ulster University presented key aspects of ongoing research including work carried out through a recently formed Ulster University spinout, NeuroCONCISE. The firm develops technology that enables people to interact with technology and communicate by analysing brain waves. Although the research initially was developed for healthcare, Ulster University is now applying it to journalism and creative media as one method of predicting and understanding audience behaviour.