EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Statistical Science: The Oxford-Warwick Statistics Programme.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Statistics


The Oxford-Warwick Statistics Programme will train a new cohort of at least 50 graduates in the theory, methods and applications of Statistical Science for 21st Century data-intensive environments and large-scale models. This is joint project lead by the Statistics Departments of Oxford and Warwick. These two departments, ranked first and second for world leading research in the last UK research assessment exercise, can provide a wonderful stimulating training environment for doctoral students in statistics. The Centre's pool of supervisors are known for significant international research contributions in modern computational statistics and related fields, contributions recognised by over 20 major National and International Awards since 2008. Oxford and Warwick attract students with competitively won international scholarships. The programme leaders expect to expand the cohort to 11 or 12 per year by bringing these students into the CDT, and raising their funding up to CDT-level using £188K in support from industry and £150K support from donors.

The need to engage in large-scale highly structured statistical models has been recognized for some time within areas like genomics and brain-imaging technologies. However, the UK's leading industries and sciences are now also increasingly aware of the enormous potential that data-driven analysis holds. These industries include the engineering, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, financial, e-commerce, life-science and entertainment sectors. The analysis bottleneck has moved from being able to collect and record relevant data to being able to interpret and exploit vast data collections. These and other businesses are critically dependent on the availability of future leaders in Statistics, able to design and develop statistical approaches that are scalable to massive data. The UK can take a world lead in this field, being a recognized international leader in Statistics; and OxWaSP is ideally placed to realize the potential of this opportunity.

The Centre is focused on a new type of training for a new type of graduate statistician in statistical methodology and computation that is scalable to big data. We will bring a new focus on training for research, by teaching directly from the scientific literature. Students will be thrown straight into reading and summarizing journal papers. Lecture-format contact is used sparingly with peer-to-peer learning central to the training approach. This is teaching and learning for research by doing research. Cohort learning will be enhanced via group visits to companies, small groups reproducing results from key papers, student-orientated paper discussions, annual workshops and a three-day off-site retreat. From the second year the students will join their chosen supervisors in Warwick and Oxford, five in each Centre coming together regularly for research group meetings that overlap Oxford and Warwick, for workshops and retreats, and teaching and mentoring of students in earlier years.

The Centre is timely and ambitious, designed to attract and nurture the brightest graduate statisticians, broadening their skills to meet the new challenge and allowing them to flourish in a focused, communal, research-training environment. The strategic vision is to train the next generation of statisticians who will enable the new data-intensive sciences and industries. The Centre will offer a vehicle to bring together industrial partners from across the two departments to share ideas and provide an important perspective to our students on the research challenges and opportunities within commercial and social enterprises. Student's training will be considerably enhanced through the Centre's visits, lectures, internships and co-supervision from global partners including Amazon, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, MAN and Novartis, as well as smaller entrepreneurial start-ups Deepmind and Optimor.

Planned Impact

Our primary impact will be over 50 trained graduates. The Oxford-Warwick Centre will provide future industrial and academic research leaders in statistics for modern day science, engineering, and commerce all exemplified by "big data". The strategic vision is to train the next generation of statisticians who will enable the new data-intensive sciences and industries. Products which use sophisticated statistical ideas to add value to data are being taken up by the public and there is widespread opportunity for wealth creation.

Our partners give some idea of the sectors we impact: Xerox, Amazon and Google produce products with 'Statistics inside' for data analysis on massive data sets. These companies are producing data-mining tools. These tools are applied by the companies themselves and the public to analysis data about society: image data, payment transactions, twitter feeds: all massive streaming data sets. Deepmind and Optimor have similar interests. Ilumina, Unilever, Novartis and GSK produce pharmaceuticals and biotech products, whilst Lubrixol is a lubricant manufacturer. All carry out substantial statistical work to develop products, and in some cases sell statistical tools as part of the product. Man Investments and Milward Brown are respectively Investment and Marketing companies. They use statistical tools to quantify risk, and look for predtictable structures in data masked by the noise of human decision making.

By making impact, through improved evidenced based statistical science, at companies such as Amazon, Google and GlaxoSmithKline, the CDT will ultimately impact benefits to the public users of their services.

Statistics has been called 'the science of doing science'. Statisticians support research across science. We aim to produce graduates with the ability to transfer statistical methods across discipline boundaries, with the skills to analyze large and complex data sets wherever they arise.


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