Prof Norma Bargary at Pint of Science Event

Impact beyond our own field: Prof Norma Bargary of UL on the value of the Insight network

Submitted on Wednesday, 01/02/2023

I became an Insight member as a result of an application led by Professor James Gleeson at the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry (MACSI), based in the University of Limerick. Membership has brought advantages that I did not anticipate, and as the relationship with Insight has grown, I have become more aware of the benefits of being part of the SFI Centres programme. Funding is the first advantage but the funding structure itself has brought value beyond the bottom line.

Insight has given us resources to bring in international talent, to target problems we are seeking to solve with our research. The SFI Centres funding structure means that investment we secure from industry is now matched by SFI via Insight and gives us the freedom to develop and deepen our industrial partnerships. I am an applied statistician and my team and I need access to real world challenges to do our work. The business development team at Insight have been very supportive in getting partnerships up and running.

We now work regularly with Insight members in DCU, UCD and UCC. Our research at MACSI demands access to rich datasets, to which we can apply mathematical and statistical modelling. Insight members have been able to provide such datasets and point us to questions in the data that need to be answered.

We develop the algorithms, but we don’t know if they are useful unless they are fitted to the data. Insight members are developing very rich datasets via sensors and other data collection tools.

What has proven critical to the work has been the domain expertise that comes with the data. Insight has a very diverse discipline profile.  When we are working with biomechanical datasets, for example, we need to be guided by domain experts in human movement, in order to help us make sense of what we find and to flag any anomalies.

We take pride in knowing that our work is now part of something bigger. By working on a health dataset, for example, we are advancing knowledge in both statistical modelling and health. We have the opportunity to have an impact beyond our own field.

We have gained an greater awareness of the data science ecosystem in Ireland, so we are now able to channel requests from industry to other researchers around the country when MACSI is not in a position to take them on. Funding and admin support are the core amenities of the Centres Programme. However, over time we are seeing wider advantages. Being an Insight member has given me perspective on the work that is happening outside of statistics around the country. Too often research is siloed within institutions and it’s very valuable to know what others are doing and where there might be opportunities to work together.

Norma Bargary, Professor of Data Science and Statistical Learning at University of Limerick, is a Funded Investigator at Insight.

Prof Bargary is also co-director of MACSI, the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry.