EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training Cloud Computing for Big Data


Professor Paul Watson

Director of the Digital Institute, Professor of Computer Science


Paul Watson is Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Digital Institute at Newcastle University. He is a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, and PI of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data and of the National Innovation Centre for Data. Previously, he directed the £12M RCUK-funded Digital Economy Hub on Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy which focussed on using advanced computing technologies to transform the lives of older people and those with disabilities. He graduated in 1983 with a BSc in Computer Engineering from Manchester University, followed by a PhD on parallel computing in 1986. In the 80s, as a Lecturer at Manchester University, he was a designer of the Alvey Flagship and Esprit EDS systems. From 1990-5 he worked for ICL as a system designer of the Goldrush MegaServer parallel database server, which was released as a product in 1994.

In August 1995 he moved to Newcastle University, where he has led a range of research projects. His research interest is in scalable information management with a current focus on Data Analytics and IoT. He sits on the board of Dynamo North East, an industry-led organisation created to grow the IT economy of the region. He is also a member of the Department for Transport Science Advisory Council. Professor Watson is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (where he sits on their Diversity and Inclusion Committee), a Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Chartered Engineer and a member of the UK Computing Research Committee. He received the 2014 Jim Gray eScience Award and the 2018 Newcastle University Academic Distinction Award.

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Paul Watson's research is in scalable information management. This includes work on:

- Cloud Computing. Methods for building scalable cloud-based applications are explored in a range of projects. Since 2007, this has been focused on e-Science Central , a portable cloud platform for storing, analysing and sharing data. e-Science Central is used to support a wide range of applications and users through the Digital Institute. It is also our main research vehicle for cloud research in areas including provenance, scalability, formal methods and federated clouds. Our work on using federated clouds to meet the security requirements of applications won the Best Paper award at IEEE CloudCom 2011. Our work on clouds builds on what we learnt in the Carmen project which designed and built a virtual laboratory to support neuroscientists.

- Data-intensive e-science. Interest in e-science is resulting in vast amounts of data being published. We worked on how to publish data through services (e.g. see the Databases and the Grid paper, and Databases in Grid Applications: Distribution and Locality) so that it can be exploited in distributed applications. From this, and earlier work in parallel query processing, we collaborated with Norman Paton's group at Manchester to explore how to integrate data held in distributed database servers, exploiting grid computing to dynamically acquire computational resources as they are needed, e.g. to speed-up queries through parallel joins. This led to the release of the widely adopted OGSA-DQP. The legacy of this work continues in many of the e-Research applications we support on e-Science Central.

- Streaming Data Analytics. Sensors are now generating vast quantities of data - extracting value from them requires new tools and techniques that combine statistics and computing to find and act on important patterns in the data. We work on systems that start with a declarative description of the functional and non-functional requirements, and work out how to map the computation across distributed infrastructure, including healthcare monitors, field gateways and clouds. Here's a paper on some of our work - it shows how this approach can dramatically extend the battery life of wearables.

- Exploring how advanced technologies can improve the lives of those from vulnerable groups, including older people, disabled people, and marginalised youth. Paul directed the £12M Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy" (SiDE) project which aims to  realise the potential of digital technologies to transform the lives of those who are excluded. This drove much of our work on cloud computing as SiDE made heavy use of sensor-based systems which generate large amounts of data that must be analysed in order to understand human behaviour, often in real-time. Work started in SiDE on data analytics and sensors is now been driven forward through the National Innovation Centre for Ageing