Big Data Future Conference 2014

By Marcus Andrews

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law will host a free multidisciplinary conference from March 19-21, 2014, with the goal of raising awareness about big data’s potential impact on economic, social and political life.ohio-state-university

Ohio State law professor Peter Shane, the lead organizer of Big Data Future, explained that helping people understand big data and connect it to their lives is an important part of the conference.

“Any one of these topics could sustain its own full day symposium or its own full semester course,” Shane said. “But the idea of the conference is really to give people, to give non-experts, a kind of road map of this terrain—a sense of what the field encompasses.”

Big Data Future will consist of eight panels and a keynote speaker discussing a range of big data topics. Each contributor will also write a paper, and presentations will be video- recorded and archived online.

Joel Gurin, the founder of, will deliver the keynote address. Panel discussion topics will range from the governance of big data, to big data’s impact on health, education and welfare.

Panelists will come from a variety of fields in the university, government and private sectors, with some coming from high-profile companies such as IBM, Twitter and Microsoft.

Shane stressed the importance of the diversity of expertise brought by the speakers.

“My basic defense of interdisciplinary approaches is always that problems rarely show up in single discipline frames,” Shane said. “Whether it’s poverty, or climate change, or economic growth, all of these things require problem solvers from a variety of approaches.”

Caroline Wagner, a professor at Ohio State’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs, explained that big data can be applied to current issues.

“For example,” Wagner explained, “Obamacare, and healthcare and all of these things are going to eventually become simpler to use as we apply big data to these kinds of public problems.”

Wagner further described the advantage of the multidisciplinary approach. A conference of this kind brings together governments that hold data, companies with computing power and universities that want to study the data. These agencies and companies provide a service to the community with the resulting knowledge of how to use data.

“Central Ohio, under the leadership of The Ohio State University, is in a better position than almost any place in the nation to take the lead on big data,” Wagner said. “This conference will help us to kind of focus ourselves in on some of the key questions.”

Big Data Future grew from an annual, single-day symposium that covered topics held by a law student group, I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, which Shane advises. Big data turned out to be such an important topic that it led to an expansion into a three-day format for 2014.