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In the return of its Data Analytics Summit, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology will open its doors to renowned specialists who will present case studies, solutions and applications in which unstructured data can become a tool, both in academia and in science.

Registration for the Dec. 14 to 16 event is ongoing but expected to sell out. The summit is geared for researchers, educators, students, leaders and practitioners in business and government who are working on big data analytics issues.

“We believe people will realize that data analytics is a field that is moving so fast, you have to get on board now to get ahead of it,” said Dr. W. Rand Ford, professor of analytics at Harrisburg University and a co-chair for the summit. “The sky is the limit when it comes to data analytics. It will drive our understanding of how computers can process human language. When that comes to the front of the table, the possibilities are endless.”

Keynote Speaker Professor James Pennebeck, a Centennial Professor at the University of Texas in Austin, will present “Mind Mining: Using everyday language to explore social and psychological processes.”

His research on health, emotions and physical health led him to discover how simple tasks and the human language can impact the human experience. In the mid-1980s, he and his students discovered that expressive writing about emotional upheavals for as little as 15 minutes per day for three to four days improves physical and mental health.

His most extensive work was in developing the computer text analysis program LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count).  His work on natural language demonstrates the ways some of the most invisible words in English — pronouns, articles, prepositions — can reveal basic social, personality and other psychological processes. 

Harrisburg University president Dr. Eric Darr often encompasses the entrepreneurial spirit by firmly “standing where the future will be.” Those words of inspiration remind analytics professor Dr. Ford that Harrisburg University, its students and the community can benefit from harnessing the power of unstructured data.

Data analytics is a part of everyday life. Society moves along with the digital age to shop online, research how to buy insurance and determine what movies should be watched.

The digital footprints left behind are used to determine how the government can fight loan delinquency, the way case workers collect child support obligations and decrease company staffing costs.

But perhaps the biggest obstacle in data analytics is harnessing the power behind the more than 80 percent of unstructured data that is expected to be produced in the next five years.

“To understand language analysis is the simulation of human intelligence,” Dr. Ford said. “Once you understand that, you can do great things. Our technology is still far from what we see in sci-fi movies, but the excitement of that possibility drives us.”

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