Making sense of big data to improve the nation’s defence

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has announced the launch of the Data Science Challenge, designed to bring the brightest minds in data science together to solve real-world problems. The first challenges – detecting and classifying vehicles from aerial imagery and the classification of documents by themes– are now open to entrants, with each challenge boasting a total prize fund of £40,000.

The Data Science Challenge is part of a wider programme set out in the Defence Innovation Initiative that aims to build an open innovation ‘ecosystem’, harnessing the talents of individuals, academia and industry to develop new approaches to complex problems. The Data Science Challenge is piloting new ways of working including the use of crowdsourcing to engage the data science community to develop cutting edge solutions to defence and security problems.

The Data Science Challenge is sponsored by Dstl, the Government Office for Science, Secret Intelligence Service and MI5. The first two challenges involve classifying vehicles from aerial photography and surfacing news reports that indicate growing instability in a region. James Srinivasan, a principal data scientist at Dstl, said: “Around the world, governments are using the power of data to meet many of the huge challenges that they are facing. By analysing complex, evolving information, data science can provide invaluable insight that informs how we can best respond to event.”