NC State Statistics Department Helps Land $60 Million NSA Grant
The National Security Agency (NSA) and North Carolina State University announced in August a $60 million partnership to create the Laboratory for Analytic Sciences (LAS), the largest sponsored research contract in the university’s history.
The university’s statistics department is an important part of the reason NC State succeeded in the highly competitive selection process, along with its strengths in data analytics, computer science, social science, and mathematics and its proximity to and connections with national industry leaders, according to the press release.
Randy Avent, principal investigator for LAS and associate vice chancellor for research development at NC State said, “The statistics component of our proposal was integral to its success. Our statistics colleagues bring to the table advanced statistical techniques and will also be developing the new methodologies necessary to be successful in the Big Data era.”
Located on the university’s campus near Research Triangle Park, the laboratory will be a cornerstone of the emerging advanced data innovation hub at NC State, bringing together some of the brightest minds from government, academia, and industry to collaborate on the most challenging Big Data problems.
The NC State Department of Statistics is among the nation’s oldest and was founded by renowned statistician and ASA Past President Gertrude Cox in 1941.
Researchers from this department, as well as dozens of others across campus, will collaborate with government scientists from NSA’s research and intelligence directorates. Applying scientific methodologies to the analytic environment will enable the LAS to offer a fresh perspective on the future of analysis. By analyzing mission problems in a way that starts with the science base, the LAS will develop breakthrough capabilities and be uniquely positioned to harness the power of academic and commercial advances.
“The LAS is founded on the principles of collaboration and innovation, as evidenced by our choice of location, our multidisciplinary staff, and our approach to problemsolving,” said LAS director, J. David Harris. “Research at the LAS will build upon existing analysis and analytics solutions, rethinking the enormous challenges and opportunities that are emerging as a result of Big Data.”
Michael Wertheimer, NSA director of research, described the broad objective of the partnership with NC State by saying, “By immersing intelligence analysts with NC State’s diverse group of scientists, we hope to discover new and powerful ways to meet our foreign signals intelligence and information assurance missions, giving us an edge to better protect the nation.”
Alyson Wilson, who joined the NC State Department of Statistics in part to work with LAS, said statisticians from across the Research Triangle area will work with interdisciplinary teams of researchers on the initiative’s three primary research focuses:
- Understanding the analytic workflow
- Developing the science of analytics
- Improving the analyst experience at the intersection of technology and tradecraft
“The success of the university’s proposal to lead the Laboratory for Analytic Sciences is another indication that proposals on scientific research projects, especially those focused on Big Data, on which statisticians are co-investigators, are much more competitive than those without,” said 2013 ASA President Marie Davidian, who also is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Statistics at NC State. “We’re seeing this emerging trend over and over again in numerous scientific fields ranging from astrostatistics to biomedical research to forensic science. The NC State-NSA partnership validates that statistics in fact does make the science better.”
Projects undertaken at the LAS will help NSA meet this ongoing challenge while also producing analytic techniques that will drive future commercial and academic endeavors.
Applying scientific methodologies to the analytic environment will enable the LAS to offer a fresh perspective on the future of analysis. By analyzing mission problems in a way that starts with the science base, the LAS will develop breakthrough capabilities and be uniquely positioned to harness the power of academic and commercial advances.