Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science

Dear Members of the Johns Hopkins Community,

More than 20 years ago, a team of Johns Hopkins University researchers participated in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an effort to assemble a photographic record of the night sky. The image data collected over the next eight years numbered hundreds of millions of objects and dwarfed the typical volume of data collected at that time.

It was the beginning of a new era of scientific problem-solving. It was the beginning of big data.

Today, researchers across Johns Hopkins continue to lead in this field, but the landscape is evolving. We know that meaningful progress cannot be achieved in silos. This is why we’re pleased to share with you that the university’s Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science (IDIES) has refashioned itself as a true universitywide initiative, merging scholars’ expertise in big data with comparable expertise in the health sciences.

Alexander Szalay, the Alumni Centennial Professor of Astronomy and one of the pioneering researchers on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, founded IDIES in 2008. He, along with Vice Provost for Research Scott Zeger and Vice Provost for Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs and Special Projects Jon Bagger, have championed big data at Johns Hopkins and made it a priority.

It is because of their dedication and leadership that IDIES, originally a Homewood-based partnership with the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, and the Sheridan Libraries, now includes the School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. They have our thanks and our admiration for cementing Johns Hopkins’ place as a leader in the field of big data.

As an interdivisional institute, IDIES will be able to harness the work of large teams in astrophysics, genetics, condensed matter physics, fluid mechanics, environmental science, and bioinformatics, among others, that collect huge data sets. The institute will then make the data sets available to much wider research communities. In fact, many of the data sets housed at Johns Hopkins eventually will be made available to scientists around the world.

The enormous data sets will be housed in several high-performance research computing facilities, including a new one that is located near the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore. Shared with the University of Maryland at College Park, it is funded by the state of Maryland and scheduled to go online in September 2014.

But research isn’t the university’s only focus in the realm of big data. Johns Hopkins is committed to educating the next generation of data-literate experts, capable of leveraging big data to solve important societal problems. We will, therefore, develop undergraduate and graduate academic opportunities that emphasize the skills required to use large data sets.

We encourage members of the broader university community—particularly those working on or interested in data-intensive research—to join IDIES and learn about upcoming activities, grant opportunities, and how to become involved with the high-performance computing facilities at Johns Hopkins.

To learn more about IDIES and to become a member, visit


Ronald J. Daniels

Robert C. Lieberman
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs