BBC Research and Development, along with colleagues from around the BBC, launched a five-year research partnership with eight UK Universities to unlock the potential of data in the media in October 2017. The Data Science Research Partnership aims to be at the forefront of machine learning in the media industry, helping create a more personal BBC that can inform, educate and entertain in new ways.
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BBC R&D, like many others, has seen the explosive growth in the application of machine learning and data science to many different businesses. Inside the BBC we could see the potential of a data-informed BBC and moving towards a personalised BBC but that it would require a lot more resources to bring to bear on the problem in many different areas than the BBC by itself could muster. When we talked to universities about opportunities in data science we found a great appetite to work on the BBC’s problems and data sets, with a shared focus on the public good.
The partnership brings together industry experts from across the BBC and world-leading UK data scientists from the Universities of Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh and Surrey, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, Ulster University and University College London.
The partnership aims to collaborate with media and technology organisations from across the UK, Europe and internationally on a range of projects. These will focus on the following four areas, all combining anonymised BBC data with cutting-edge algorithms and analytics. The aim is to create a body of research, insights and prototypes that can start making a real impact on the BBC and its audiences. There are 4 main themes of work:
- Understanding audiences: Use data to better understand what audiences want from the BBC, why they want it, and what impact these programmes or services have on them.
- Understanding content: Explore what machine learning can teach the BBC about its programmes and services, and what it stands to gain from it.
- Curation and personalisation: Create a more personal BBC, designing tools and algorithms to help programme makers with editorial and commissioning decisions.
- Content of the future: Design future audience experiences, based on BBC R&D’s object-based broadcasting concept, and new forms of data journalism.
“The BBC has always been at its best when it combines creativity with technology. As we reinvent the BBC, we can see the opportunities that data and machine learning are opening up for us, our creative talent and our audiences. This partnership will help us break new ground and ensure we continue giving audiences the very best in public service broadcasting well into the future.”
Matthew Postgate, BBC Chief Technology and Product Officer
A critical part of the DSRP will be to develop UK leadership in data science skills. In order to address the scarcity of data scientists in the UK, this partnership will train the next generation of data scientists on media problems that will create audience experiences that don't even exist yet.
Working with our network of university partners, we will offer work-based learning opportunities for students at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level, to ground their learning in real world problems.
We want our colleagues in the BBC to develop the skills they’ll need in a data-driven future so we are exploring the opportunity to create a masters level apprenticeship in data science for media with the partners and secondments between the BBC and all the research partners.
For technical questions about data science and the challenges and opportunities that this the DSRP seeks to address, please contact Andrew McParland and the data team - who tackle a wide range of data related issues applying their extensive know how to complex problems.