Published on 24 April 2017

i2-DRIVE, the Interdisciplinary Institute for Data Research, is Université Paris-Saclay's second Convergence Institute. Nozha Boujemaa talked to us about her initiative.

What is a Convergence Institute?

The idea behind the Convergence Institutes is to bring together and give structure to far-reaching multidisciplinary expertise on a topic that poses scientific challenges with hefty socio-economic consequences, all on one academic site. The objectives are to develop an integrative vision for advanced research coupled with excellent teaching programs, and to boost relations between the academic and industrial spheres.

10 projects have been selected from all over France in the two rounds, and two of them are Université Paris-Saclay’s: Cland and i2-DRIVE.

What research will be conducted at i2-DRIVE?

Right now, Big Data is a priority issue in both academic and industrial spheres at national, European and international level, and all socio-economic sectors are affected. The data science-led digital transformation presents technological, legal, economic and ethical barriers that are totally interdependent. i2-DRIVE (Interdisciplinary Institute for Data Research: Intelligence, Values and Ethics) proposes to group these different communities together for the first time. The fabric of this Convergence Institute is made up of three dimensions: disciplinary foundations, interdisciplinary challenges, and areas of application (use cases and industry-specific expertise). Activities eligible for i2-DRIVE funding will combine at least two of the three dimensions.

It's a great opportunity to establish our national and international leadership role in the field of data science and related socio-economic issues. The combination of expertise in digital science and the social sciences will guarantee innovation in research and teaching in this field. This conjunction also has very promising prospects for technology transfer and innovation, thanks to the systemic vision that i2-DRIVE will bring to addressing the challenges of digital transformation in the era of Big Data and cognitive systems.

How does i2-DRIVE fit into Université Paris-Saclay?

The aim of this Convergence Institute is to establish Université Paris-Saclay's national and international leadership in the field of data science by forming a multidisciplinary research-teaching-innovation ecosystem with a strong international reputation. It will draw on existing collaborations, such as with the Data Science Institute (Columbia Univ., NY), IVADO (Montreal) and CREST-PRESTO "Advanced Core Technologies for Big Data Integration" (Japan).

The i2-DRIVE consortium brings together universities (Université Paris-Sud, Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin and Université d'Evry-Val d'Essonne), national research institutes (CEA, CNRS, IFPEN, INRA and INRIA) and grandes écoles (CentraleSupélec, École Polytechnique, ENSAE, HEC and Mines-Telecom Institute). In so doing, i2-DRIVE associates laboratories and organizations recognized for their complementary skills in research and teaching in the fields of mathematics, computer science, social sciences (law, sociology, ethics, business and management), and in technology transfer. The project focuses on issues for which Université Paris-Saclay is already well known and respected with two IDEX Big Data research chairs, the Digicosme and LMH Labexes, the  Digiscope and CASD EquipExes, the CDS, ISN and iCode Lidexes, the IRS CDS2.0, iCode2 and Nutriperso, the FMJH’s PGMO program, the Carnot institutes, the PIA-Big Data "TERALAB" platform and the SystemX Institute for Technology Research (IRT). The supercomputing center run jointly by CentraleSupélec and ENS Paris-Saclay will also be made available to researchers.

A Convergence Institute must also have links with industry. An industrial affiliate program is currently being put in place. Companies such as EDF, Renault and GRDF have already expressed an interest in becoming associate partners. A dozen other industrial partners are expected to join them. We also have support from the Systematic and Cap Digital clusters and the SystemX IRT.

How will i2-DRIVE innovate in terms of teaching?

We are going to develop a range of degree and continuing education programs that build on Université Paris-Saclay's existing master's programs in data science and the social sciences. The idea is for i2-DRIVE to promote multidisciplinary teaching and learning by introducing data science students to the key social sciences disciplines and vice versa. A new style of doctoral training will be developed, with proposed initiatives including topic-based quarters, summer schools run by and for PhD students, and internships for PhD students. International partnerships centered on i2-DRIVE will also offer an unprecedented opportunity for master's and PhD student exchanges and international engagement. These programs are designed to train the next generation of data scientists and to educate managers and policy makers on the responsible use of data.

Nozha Boujemaa - i2-DRIVE

Nozha Boujemaa is a senior researcher at Inria and advisor on Big Data to Inria’s CEO. She specializes in indexing and interactive information retrieval through visual content, and in semi-supervised and active learning. Her research activities are leading to the next generation of multimedia search engines. She has supervised over 25 PhD students and is co-author of more than 150 publications in international journals and conference proceedings. She is a founding member of the ACM International Conference of Multimedia Information Retrieval (ICMR) and serves as general chair of ACM Multimedia 2013. She was the scientific head of IMEDIA research group for over 10 years before becoming director of Inria Saclay Research Center (2010-2015). Dr Boujemaa serves as general chair of the "European Data Forum 2017" to be held in Versailles in November. She is a board member of the Data Transparency Lab founded by MIT, Mozilla and Telefonica, and of the BDVA (Big Data Value Association), which runs PPP Big Data together with the European Commission. She is an international consultant for the Japan Science and Technology Agency's program "Core Technologies for Big Data Integration" and a knight of the French National Order of Merit.

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