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Big Data and Analytics Symposium

November 11, 2015, Washington DC

The International Monetary Fund will hold its first Big Data and Analytics Symposium at its headquarters in Washington DC on November 11th, 2015.

The symposium is intended to raise awareness among Fund staff about the potential use of big data to supplement work practices and empower those that recognize its potential to pursue their ideas. Attendees will hear from many prominent speakers who have experience working with big data. There will be opportunities to ask questions and interact with the speakers either to validate or complete their understanding of some big data use cases. Hal Varian (Google) will deliver the opening keynote speech.

The symposium is by invitation only.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

8:30 - 9:00am

Networking Breakfast

9:00 - 9:15am

Welcome and Introduction

9:15 - 10:15am

Opening Keynote: Using search data for social and economic research

Speaker: Hal Varian, Chief Economist, Google
Hal Varian

Hal R. Varian is the Chief Economist at Google. He started in May 2002 as a consultant and has been involved in many aspects of the company, including auction design, econometric analysis, finance, corporate strategy and public policy.

He is also an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley in three departments: business, economics, and information management.

He received his SB degree from MIT in 1969 and his MA in mathematics and Ph.D. in economics from UC Berkeley in 1973. He has also taught at MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Michigan and other universities around the world.

Dr. Varian is a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the Econometric Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was Co-Editor of the American Economic Review from 1987-1990 and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Oulu, Finland and the University of Karlsruhe, Germany.

Professor Varian has published numerous papers in economic theory, industrial organization, financial economics, econometrics and information economics. He is the author of two major economics textbooks which have been translated into 22 languages. He is the co-author of a bestselling book on business strategy, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy and wrote a monthly column for the New York Times from 2000 to 2007.

Relevant Work:

Big Data: New Tricks for Econometrics

Big Data Colloquium: Drawing Casual Inference from Big Data

Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy

Intermediate Microeconomics: A Modern Approach

10:15 - 10:30am

Coffee Break

10:35 - 11:40am

Presentation: What big multilaterals can do with big data?

Speaker: Roberto Rigobon, Professor, MIT
Roberto Rigobon

Roberto Rigobon is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Applied Economics at the Sloan School of Management, MIT, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the Census Bureau's Scientific Advisory Committee, and a visiting professor at IESA.

Roberto is a Venezuelan economist whose areas of research are international economics, monetary economics, and development economics. Roberto focuses on the causes of balance-of-payments crises, financial crises, and the propagation of them across countries - the phenomenon that has been identified in the literature as contagion. Currently he studies properties of international pricing practices, try to produce alternative measures of inflation, and is one of the two founding members of the Billion Prices Project, and a co-founder of PriceStats.

Roberto joined the business school in 1997 and has won three times the "Teacher of the year" award and three times the "Excellence in Teaching" award at MIT. He got his Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1997, an MBA from IESA (Venezuela) in 1991, and his BS in Electrical Engineer from Universidad Simon Bolivar (Venezuela) in 1984. He is married with three kids.

Relevant Work:

The Billion Prices Project @MIT

Price Stats

International Financial Contagion: Theory and Evidence in Evolution

From Data to Information: Principles Behind the Good Use of Big Data

Thousand Big Mac’s Index Project

11:40 - 12:40pm

Industry Panel Discussion: What is the big deal with big data?

Moderator: Susan Swart, CIO, IMF


John Brocklebank, Senior VP, SAS
John Brocklebank

John Brocklebank brings more than 30 years of SAS programming and statistical experience to his leadership role at SAS. He now leads the SAS Solutions OnDemand division (known as SSOD). SSOD delivers hosting and services through the cloud via SAS Cloud Analytics offerings. Through on-demand access to SAS technology, SAS Cloud Analytics provides an easy and cost-effective way to deliver valuable business insight.

Dr. Brocklebank also directs the Advanced Analytics Lab (AAL) whose members have a proven track record of solving complex business problems across a wide variety of industries, rapidly growing presales and delivery of services while the scope of problems and the number of customer projects under management continue to increase. The AAL devotes over 400 resources, many of whom are doctoral-level SAS experts, to devising technology solutions to critical issues, such as fraud, waste, tax collection, public safety, healthcare, and education. SSOD has moved to a Global Analytics Cloud delivery now serving customers around the world.

Holder of 12 issued patents, Brocklebank was head of Statistical Training and Consulting in SAS' Education department from 1981 to 1996 where he taught classes and managed the statistical curriculum development. He was named the Product Development Director for SAS Data Mining in 1997 and was the initial product development director for SAS® Enterprise Miner™. He started the hosting business known as the Application Service Provider (ASP) development group in 2000 and was eventually promoted to his current position of Senior Vice President of SAS Solutions OnDemand.

Co-author of the book The SAS System for Forecasting Time Series, Dr. Brocklebank holds a Ph.D. in Statistics and Mathematics, an M.S. in Biostatistics, and a B.A. in Mathematics. At North Carolina State University, he serves as a Physical and Mathematical Sciences (PAMS) Foundation board member and an Adjunct Professor of Statistics. In 2009, he was awarded the SAS CEO Award of Excellence. In 2011 he received the Best Fit Integrator Leadership Award from the Center for Digital Government, awarding him for his role as a leader of the SAS Advanced Analytics Lab for State and Local Government.

Relevant Work:

SAS for Forecasting Time Series

Bill Schmarzo, CTO, EMC2
Bill Schmarzo

Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business", is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service line offerings and capabilities for the EMC Global Services Enterprise Information Management & Analytics service line. As part of Bill's CTO charter, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, avid blogger and is a frequent speaker on the use of Big Data and advanced analytics to power organization's key business initiatives. He also teaches the "Big Data MBA" course at the University of San Francisco School of Management.

Bill has over three decades of experience in data warehousing, BI and analytics. Bill authored EMC's Vision Workshop methodology that links an organization's strategic business initiatives with their supporting data and analytic requirements, and co-authored with Ralph Kimball a series of articles on analytic applications. Bill has served on The Data Warehouse Institute's faculty as the head of the analytic applications curriculum.

Previously, Bill was the vice president of Analytics at Yahoo where he was responsible for the development of Yahoo's Advertiser and Website analytics products, including the delivery of "actionable insights" through a holistic user experience. Before that, Bill oversaw the Analytic Applications business unit at Business Objects, including the development, marketing and sales of their industry-defining analytic applications.

Bill holds a masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, Computer Science and Business Administration from Coe College.

Recent blogs can be found at:

Relevant Work:

Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business

Big Data MBA

Big Data SV 2015

Michael Liebow, Managing Director, Accenture Cloud
Chris Surdak

Michael Liebow is the global managing director for Accenture Cloud. He drives cloud adoption across Regions and Industries and operates the Accenture Cloud Platform [ACP], a one-stop shop for Enterprises Cloud Services from a broad ecosystem of partners including Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Michael is a former Fellow at the US Department of State, Startup CEO, and IBM Executive who thrives on big, disruptive transformations in large, complex organizations and markets.

12:40 - 13:40pm

Lunch Break

13:45 - 14:30pm

Presentation: More, Better, Different: Big Data and the Ancien Régime

Speaker: Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor, The Economist
Kenneth Cukier

Kenneth Cukier is the Data Editor of The Economist and co-author of "Big Data: A Revolution That Transforms How We Live, Work and Think," a NYT Bestseller translated into over 20 languages. The book won the National Library of China's Wenjin Book Award, and was a finalist for the FT Business Book of the Year. Kenn has covered business and technology for two decades from over 30 countries on four continents. In 2002-04 he was a research fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He is a frequent commentator in the media, notably on NPR, BBC and others. Kenn serves on the board of directors of International Bridges to Justice, a Geneva-based NGO fostering legal rights in developing countries. Also, he is on the board of advisors to the Daniel Pearl Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Relevant Work:

Big Data: A Revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think

Ken Cukier at Google

Big data is better data, TED talks

14:30 - 15:15pm

Presentation: Nowcasting in the era of big data

Speaker: Jasper McMahon,CEO, Nowcasting Economics
Jasper McMahon

Formerly a director of Misys plc, the UK software group, previously an investment banker with Salomon Brothers and S.G.Warburg, and a management consultant with McKinsey & Co. Jasper has experience of finance, operations, and of business start-ups.

Relevant Work:

Economics in Real time, TED talks

Now-Casting: Economics in real time

15:15 - 15:30pm

Coffee Break

15:35 - 16:35pm

Academic Panel Discussion: Big Data Analytics in Economics - confined to micro or relevant to macro too?

Moderator: Maurice Obstfeld, Chief Economis, IMF


David Lazer, Professor, Northeastern University
David Lazer

Director, NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. Prior to coming to Northeastern University, he was on the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School (1998-2009).

His research focuses on the nexus of network science, computational social science, and collaborative intelligence. He is the founder of the citizen science website Volunteer Science and the political visualization website VisPolics. His research has been published in such journals as Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the American Political Science Review, and the Administrative Science Quarterly, and has received extensive coverage in the media, including the New York Times, NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and CBS Evening News.

Dr. Lazer serves in multiple leadership and editorial positions, including as a board member for the International Network of Social Network Analysts (INSNA), reviewing editor for Science, associate editor of Social Networks and Network Science, numerous other editorial boards and program committees. He was a founder of the Political Networks Section, and a founder and founding host of the Political Networks conference.

Sample research projects in the Lazer Lab:

Collective cognition: how do we think together? Our collective creativity is not simply the sum of our individual imaginations, but somehow emerges from a social process where ideas flow from one mind to another, recombining into something new. The Lazer Lab is using both experimental methods and computational modeling to understand the collective human mind. This is work in collaboration with Northeastern faculty Brooke Foucault Welles, Christoph Riedl, and Waleed Meleis.

Personalization: How do individuals have different experiences in the Internet? While each of us sees the same thing when we enter a supermarket, the virtual world is reconstituted each time someone walks through a virtual doorway. Increasingly this means that we experience different things in the same virtual location-we get different information on Google, different prices on travel websites, and so on. Such algorithmically driven personalization offers the promise of getting each individual the information they want; but it also poses multiple challenges. Is there a danger of building a "filter bubble" around individual, through which uncomfortable information never passes? Does the possibility of customized pricing (aka price discrimination and price steering) challenge basic social mores of fairness? This work is in collaboration with Northeastern faculty Christo Wilson and Alan Mislove.

Research interests: computational social science, network science, collective cognition, political networks, social influence in networks, social media, deliberative democracy, predictive modeling.

Relevant Work:

The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis

Tracking Employment Shocks Using Mobile Phone Data

Collaborative Innovation Networks

Susan Athey, Professor, Stanford University
Susan Athey

Susan Athey is The Economics of Technology Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She received her bachelor's degree from Duke University and her Ph.D. from Stanford, and she holds an honorary doctorate from Duke University. She previously taught at the economics departments at MIT, Stanford and Harvard. In 2007, Professor Athey received the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded by the American Economic Association to "that American economist under the age of forty who is adjudged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge." She was elected to the National Academy of Science in 2012 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008. Professor Athey's research focuses on the economics of the internet, online advertising, the news media, marketplace design, virtual currencies and the intersection of computer science, machine learning and economics. She advises governments and businesses on marketplace design and platform economics, notably serving since 2007 as a long-term consultant to Microsoft Corporation in a variety of roles, including consulting chief economist.

Relevant Work:

Machine Learning and Causal Inference for Policy Evaluation

Machine Learning Methods for Estimating Heterogeneous Causal Effects

Drawing Casual Inference from Big Data

Machine Learning for Economists

Lucrezia Reichlin, Professor, London Business School
Lucrezia Reichlin

Lucrezia Reichlin is Professor of Economics at the London Business School, non-executive director of UniCredit Banking Group and AGEAS Insurance Group. She is Chair of the Scientific Council at the Brussels based think-tank Bruegel as well as a member of the Commission Economique de la Nation (advisory board to the French finance and economics ministers). Between March 2005 and September 2008 she served as Director General of Research at the European Central Bank. She is Chairman and co-founder of Now-Casting Economics ltd. She is a columnist for the Italian national daily Il Corriere della Sera.

Reichlin has been an active contributor to the life of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) over the years. She has been research director in 2011-2013, first Chairman of the CEPR Euro Area Business Cycle Dating Committee, co-founder and scientist in charge of the Euro Area Business Cycle Network.

Reichlin received a Ph.D. in economics from New York University. She has held a number of academic positions, including Professor of Economics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She has also been a consultant for several Central Banks around the world, including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. She is a Fellow (elected) of the British Academy, a Fellow of the European Economic Association and member of the council of the Royal Economic Society. She is on the advisory board of several research and policy institutions around the world.

Reichlin has published numerous papers on econometrics and macroeconomics. She is an expert on forecasting, business cycle analysis and monetary policy. She pioneered now-casting in economics by developing econometrics methods capable of reading the real time data flow through the lenses of a formal econometric model. These methods are now widely used by central banks and private investors around the world. Her papers have appeared in top scientific journals, including the American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Monetary Economics and Journal of the American Statistical Association.

Relevant Work:

Now-Casting and the Real-Time Data Flow

Nowcasting GDP and Inflation: The Real-Time Informational Content of Macroeconomic Data Releases

16:35 - 17:25pm

Presentation: Advancing a Data Driven Government

Speaker: DJ Patil, Chief Data Scientist, White House Office of Science and Technology
DJ Patil

DJ Patil joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in February 2015, when he was named by the White House as Chief Data Scientist and Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy. DJ advises on policies and practices to maintain U.S. leadership in technology and innovation, fosters partnerships to maximize the Nation's return on its investment in data, and helps to attract and retain the best minds in data science to serve the public.

Since joining OSTP, DJ has collaborated with colleagues across government, including the Chief Information Officer and the U.S. Digital Service as part of the Administration's commitment to open data and data science. He is leading data science efforts related to the Precision Medicine Initiative, which focuses on utilizing advances in data and health care to provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients, while protecting patient privacy.

DJ joins the White House following an incredible career as a data scientist - a term he helped coin - in the public and private sectors, and in academia. Most recently, he served as the Vice President of Product at RelateIQ, which was acquired by Salesforce. DJ also previously held positions at LinkedIn, Greylock Partners, and eBay Inc, where he oversaw initiatives at eBay, PayPal, and Skype.

Prior to his work in the private sector, DJ was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow for the Department of Defense, where he directed new efforts to bridge computational and social sciences in fields like social network analysis to help anticipate emerging threats to the United States.

As a doctoral student and faculty member at the University of Maryland, DJ used open datasets published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to make major improvements in numerical weather forecasting. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of California, San Diego, and a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland College Park. DJ has also authored a number of influential articles and books explaining the important current and potential applications of data science. In 2014, the World Economic Forum named DJ as a Young Global Leader.

Relevant Work:

Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century

Building Data Science Teams

Data Jujitsu: The Art of turning Data into Product

Data Driven: Creating a Data Culture

17:30 - 19:00pm

Networking Reception

2015 Big Data Symposium