Big Data Alliance brings Rutgers together with 8 other New Jersey schools


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Photo by rutgers.edu |

Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, associate vice president for Economic Development at Rutgers, worked with other institutions in the state to form the Big Data Alliance, which aims to increase the state’s prominence in the field of big data.


The Big Data Alliance unites nine higher education institutions in New Jersey with government and industry partners to increase the state’s prominence in the growing field of big data analytics.

In 2013, while helping develop the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute, Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, associate vice president for Economic Development at Rutgers University and associate director of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), began looking at what other states were doing with big data. 

She said she realized that in order to gain prominence in the field, institutions within New Jersey would need to start working together. To facilitate this, she began collaborating with other institutions within New Jersey to form the Big Data Alliance.

Big data refers to the collection, storage and analysis of large volumes of data, according to Forbes. It is becoming a staple in many fields including finance, retail, information technology and more. 

The field is expected to grow very quickly in the next several years, according to Forbes. 

The Big Data Alliance is a consortium of nine institutions, including Kean University, Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Rowan University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Stockton University, Princeton University and Rutgers University. These schools are sharing their expertise in building educational programs around advanced computation, data analytics and big data.

“The purpose is to pool our resources so that the sum can be greater than the parts, because we all have strengths in different areas whether it’s technology, whether it’s educational programs, whether it’s expertise,” Brennan-Tonetta said. “By pooling these resources together these academic institutions have greater access to resources and industry and the state has access to these resources.”

In this pooling of resources, Rutgers is considered the primary processing power. As the home of Caliburn, the state’s most powerful computing system, Rutgers provides those from other institutions in the Big Data Alliance the ability to power through large swaths of data more quickly. 

Rutgers students and faculty have access to the workshops, classes and technology at these other institutions. The Big Data Alliance is also working with industry partners to build internship programs, Brennan-Tonetta said.

Those in charge of the Alliance also hope that this will lead to increase funding for all the institutions involved. The hope, Brennan-Tonetta said, is that the combined resources will allow the Big Data Alliance, the institutions involved and the state government to have stronger grant applications get more funding. 

More funding will allow these institutions to continue to expand programs and over students more training with the Big Data Alliance. Specifically, Rutgers associates have been working with the others on the Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRC) grant program, according to the Rutgers School of Engineering. Still, the results of this collaboration will not be seen for at least another year.

“It’s taken a while to really get it up and running, but this year I feel we’ve really hit our stride and I really feel like we’ll being seeing great things in the next year,” Brennan-Tonetta said. 


Kimberly Peterman is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.


Kimberly Peterman

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