College of Science & Engineering

University joins BBC data science partnership

BBC Research & Development has announced a five-year research partnership with eight UK Universities, including Edinburgh, to unlock the potential of data in the media.

The Data Science Research Partnership will be at the forefront of machine learning in the media industry, helping create a more personalised BBC that can inform, educate and entertain in new ways.

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.

Key focus

The partnership will also 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 impact on the BBC and its audiences.

  • 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.

Skills training

Alongside this will be a range of educational opportunities to help the BBC and its staff improve the skills they’ll need in a data-driven future.

This will include tailored courses ranging from entry-level to advanced, MSc Data Science apprenticeships, and secondments between the BBC and all the research partners.

The Data Research Partnership will build on expertise in speech and language processing at Edinburgh.

This is already being applied in an ongoing project with the BBC, known as Scalable Understanding of Multilingual Media (SUMMA).

This uses tools such as speech recognition to draw meaningful insights from large volumes of data across many media types and languages.

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 PostgateChief Technology and Product Officer, BBC

Speech and language is a big part of what we do in Edinburgh. Through the School of Informatics and the new Bayes Centre for Data Science and Technology we are working with leading organisations such as the BBC to develop new interaction between people, data and systems.

Professor Jon OberlanderAssistant Principal for Data Technology

Through our work on the SUMMA project, we are applying next-generation data science to help people monitor and understand media content that is broadcast in multiple languages. This new partnership will open many other exciting collaborations with the BBC.

Professor Steve RenalsSchool of Informatics