Students Staff

30 September 2016

Big Data...big questions

Professor Heather Laurie

Professor Heather Laurie.

What is big data, why is it important and how will it make a difference to our lives?

The University is hosting a free ‘Talk Big Data’ series at its Colchester Campus, between 13 October and 28 November 2016. Across five evening sessions leading experts from the worlds of business, academia, civil society and government will discuss the phenomenon of big data and its challenges and opportunities. They’ll be asking, and answering, questions about what big data is, who collects it, how it is used and whether it can make life better.

Professor Heather Laurie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Essex, said: “Whilst data has huge potential to make businesses and organisations more effective, to benefit society and even to save lives, many people are concerned about how their data is collected, stored and used. At Essex we are proud to be home to a number of leading research projects focused on big data, and to have our academics leading the way in many data research fields.

“During this series we are fortunate enough to be joined by leading business, academic and political figures who will share their expertise and views on the future of big data. We’ll be encouraging the audience to listen, question and challenge.”

The events all start at 5.30pm, and the dates and topics are:

Thursday 13 October - Charities, Humanitarian Action and Big Data: Friend or Foe?
Discover how charities are using big data, both at home and abroad, from verifying human rights violations to better responding to humanitarian disasters

Thursday 20 October - Big Data in Business: Help or Hindrance?
Big Data exists in businesses from the local shop to multinational corporations. We explore the opportunities to use this data to empower business and enhance public policy.

Thursday 10 November - Changing Lives Through Big Data Research
Already data is making a difference to people across the UK. Hear more about how, where and why research is using big data.

Thursday 17 November - Big Data, Big Brother?
Do organisations know too much about us? Our personal data is worth more than ever before. Explore privacy in the digital age.

Monday 28 November - Big Data and Society: Is It A Game Changer?
Why is big data hailed as the answer to so many big questions? Listen to those who may know why.

The events are all open to members of the public, businesses and other organisations as well as University students, academics and staff. Booking is required to guarantee a place. Please visit for a full description and list of confirmed speakers for each event, and to book any sessions you would like to attend.

The events are being organised by three research centres funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and based at the University – the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN), the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre (BLGDRC) and the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project (HRBDT). After each event there will be an opportunity for attendees to network with each other and the speakers, and to find out more about how they could work and engage with the three centres.

You can also follow the series on Twitter using #talkbigdata

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