In our increasingly digital world, ‘big data’ is becoming ever more important to business and society. Collected by devices from mobile phones to unmanned aerial vehicles, and from satellite remote sensing devices to embedded sensor networks by example, the resultant datasets can become so large and complex that it becomes difficult to apply traditional data processing applications to them. The combination of a variety of data originating from disaggregated sources offers potential to reveal new understanding through the process of the fusion of these data sources. Furthermore, the challenges of such volumes of data necessitate a new generation of analytical tools and approaches to fulfill these opportunities. Allied to this is the need for a new generation of data scientists and informaticians, who are wholly conversant in theory and practice, and able to seize the opportunities of Big Data to design and implement effective risk mitigation strategies for academe, industry, NGOs and government across the environmental sciences.


The UK Government recognises a skills gap in this area, and this Cranfield-led Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) will help bridge this gap, developing and shaping industry and policy leaders able to draw effectively on big data to improve operational efficiencies, cost reductions and reduce risk.

The DREAM CDT, announced on 3rd Feb, 2015, will provide the opportunity for 37 fully-funded PhD studentships in three cohorts to undertake postgraduate research and to apply practical big data analytics. The training will combine excellence in risk mitigation science with cutting-edge big data interpretation across the environmental sciences.

Drawing on long-established consortium collaboration and complementary expertise, we seek outcomes for DREAM that include:
Economic and Social Research Council - ESRC

  • Support for scientific excellence in the use of Big Data principles to improve our understanding of environmental risks and mitigation options across the NERC thematic priorities, and the role of Big Data in improving decision making
  • Development of the next generation of doctoral students equipped to address the ‘grand challenges’ in the use of Big Data for Risk and Mitigation analysis
  • Provision of expert practitioners able to satisfy the strong sector demand for leading edge researchers in the field of Big Data for the environmental and social sciences
  • Establishment of a student-focused centre of excellence in the use of Big Data approaches to environmental science via the CDT partnership, with support from its sponsor base

Funded by NERC (the Natural Environment Research Council, NERC Ref: NE/M009009/1), the DREAM (Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods) consortium is made up of Cranfield, Newcastle, Cambridge and Birmingham universities. Two of the studentships in the 2016 cohort are interdisciplinary studentships, co-funded by ESRCand NERC, capturing economic and social themes in the field of big data and risk mitigation. We are also offering via NERC a number of Research Experience Placements (REPs) aimed at Undergraduates seeking to learn more about our big data research topics.