Parisi gives nSPARC update at Rotary

Mimmo Parisi, director of nSPARC at MSU, speaks to the Starkville Rotary Club Monday. Parisi explained nSPARC’s role and the importance of data in daily life. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Staff Writer

Starkville Rotarians got an update on one of Mississippi State University’s most recognized programs when National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (nSPARC) Director Mimmo Parisi spoke.

Parisi, a member of the Starkville Rotary Club, gave a presentation on the work nSPARC does and the role data science plays in everyday life. Parisi laid out five roles nSPARC fills, coming up with big ideas for data research, creating new technologies and innovations, public policy supporting the use of data, the ability to access data and preparing the next generation of data scientists.

Parisi likened data to petroleum in its effect on the way the world functions

“Then we had the internal combustion engine, which gives us a car, but then Ford gave us a way to get the cars to all of us,” Parisi said “Then we had suburban areas, and the rest is history, right? Data is no different. I’ve always seen data as a resource, not just as a way to use information, but as part of something bigger than just information.”

He said since the program’s inception, nSPARC had grown from having a single office and one graduate assistant to having more than 140 employees across 55 academic disciplines. The center now takes up the entire top floor of The Mill Conference Center. The center currently stores 16 terabytes of data, and processes approximately 54.1 terabytes annually.

“It’s not just data for the sake of data,” Parisi said. “We do data for health, data for economic development, data and you name it.”

He said data could also be used in education to single out areas individual students need improvement in.

“We want to be a hub for universities, industry and public sector where they come together to inspire us about the research and scholarship,” Parisi said. “How are we going to create this new knowledge to advance? There are organizations, experts and programs, but how are we going to bring these experts and programs together, so we can really focus on things that matter that are impactful from what we do?”

He also said nSPARC focuses on innovation in the data world.

He gave some examples of programs created by nSPARC, including the MS Works app. Parisi also discussed two other nSPARC-made apps including Job Scout, a way to show students to careers suiting them and an app to report child abuse in the state foster care system.

“Every time you click, that’s used to make our mobile system even smarter, so we’re now adding artificial intelligence into that,” Parisi said. “That has given us the opportunity to work with companies like Toyota, Yokohama, Continental and many others who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be in this state. It’s really given the state an advantage that other states don’t have.”

He said Colorado and several other states were interested in using the technology developed for MS Works.

He said the future of nSPARC would be finding new ways to improve the public with data, forming what he called “smart communities” and “smart cities.” These would integrate data–fueled technology into daily life.

“More than anything else, it’s going to run your community, your city,” Parisi said. “It’s already happening.”