Big Data is highly valuable – but we need more research

Big Data can help streamline a company’s production or improve our welfare services. But we cannot make the most of Big Data until we have learned to harness the vast amount of information. This is the conclusion of a new international White Paper based on input from 130 researchers, business professionals and governmental officials. The paper has been sent to the European Commission. The initiators hope that their call-to-action will give rise to new research and funding activities.

2014.01.06 | Lise Majgaard Mortensen

When you use your credit card you produce data about what you have bought, where and when. Google uses your online searches to forecast when and where the next flu epidemic will occur. Big Data is created constantly and everywhere, and by exploiting this knowledge about our whereabouts and behaviour, private and public organisations can optimise their production and services.

But according to Professor Børge Obel, who is centre director of Aarhus University's Interdisciplinary Centre for Organizational Architecture (ICOA), we must learn to process and handle all of these intangible data before we can profit properly.   

"Big Data holds countless opportunities as well as liabilities. We need more research on relevant issues in order to learn to exploit Big Data properly with the right legislation and regulation," says Børge Obel, who is one of the initiators of a new comprehensive report, Unleashing the Potential of Big Data. The White Paper was developed by the research centre ICOA at Aarhus University in collaboration with Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, IBM and the Organizational Design Community.

The White Paper is the product of the World Summit on Big data and Organization Design, which was held at the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne in Paris in May 2013. The participants were representatives of the business community, government representatives and the world’s leading researchers on Big Data.

A comprehensive report with an important objective

Ahead of and during the World Summit, the 130 participants had the task of developing key ideas and recommendations for solving the challenges inherent in the work to curate, manage and process Big Data. For example, the White Paper contains a call-to-action to develop training and education programmes and invest in interdisciplinary research in order to expand the workforce needed to develop and use Big Data technologies. Further, it is crucial to develop legislation to protect individual and organisational rights of privacy. 

At the World Summit, each working group presented their workgroup papers, and after the summit, the members of the organising committee prepared the White Paper, which is now being distributed to the European Commission and government agencies in the 26 participating countries.

Big Data requires more experts and more research

Big Data is difficult to manage, because the large data sets exist in diverse formats in numerous registers and can only be accessed through large data processors.

But according to Børge Obel the biggest challenge is the relationship between people and the intangible data: "Big data is an asset, but there are also some crucial issues that need to be solved. For instance, who owns the data? And how do we make sure that no one tampers with the data? In order to solve the challenges of Big Data, we must take an interdisciplinary approach:  We need experts on technology, law, organisation design, business and culture to work together," emphasises Børge Obel. 

The involved researchers hope that the recently published White Paper will give new inspiration to decision makers, authorities and the business community – and their goal is to reach as many people as possible.

"Big Data is highly valuable to our companies and organisations, and it is crucial that we launch more activities, which will enable us to properly exploit the potential of Big Data. With this White Paper we hope to influence Horizon 2020, to create incentive for new research and funding activities and to raise awareness of the need for further legislation and not least education. In facing a Big Data revolution, we need more experts with the ability to handle the tasks associated with the extraction and management of Big Data," concludes Børge Obel. 


The World Summit on Big Data and Organization Design was initiated by the Organizational Design Community (ODC) and co-sponsored by IBM, the Interdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture (ICOA) at Aarhus University (Denmark), and Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris). 

The World Summit was held at the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne on May 16-17, 2013 and included 11 keynote and distinguished speakers as well as 130 participants from 26 countries. The speakers and participants represented academia, business, and government.

The White Paper is especially addressed to legislators, policy makers and government agencies in the 26 countries, but will also be available to the public through ICOA's website.


Professor Børge Obel

Centre Director for the Interdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture (ICOA)

School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University

Tel.: +45 87164835 / 20207355


Knowledge exchange, Conference, ICOA
Tags: Big Data, Organization Design, White Paper, ICOA, IBM, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, Organizational Design Community