Which IIT In India Is The Best For Research In Machine Learning & Data Science? AIM Weighs In

It is a question that perplexes many an upcoming research student – which IIT is best suited for machine learning and data science research. Globally and on home turf, IITs are recognized as Tier-1 engineering institutions that produce a steady stream of talent in computer science, software engineering, Database  and Information Systems and other related domains.

However, there is no common consensus over which institute has the most organized research program in machine learning and data science (Information Retrieval, Data Mining, NLP, Speech Recognition). Since getting a Ph.D is a big commitment, in terms of time and effort, one can’t just make a sweeping decision about which institute to go for. Analytics India Magazine mines public forums and lists down the top IITs that have a robust research program, areas of ML the institute is most active in, faculty and tie-ups with the industry.

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1. IIT Delhi: IIT Delhi is home to the recently formed Data Analytics & Intelligence Research (DAIR) focused on exploring natural language processing, statistical relational learning and social network analytics among other applications.

Faculty: The recently formed DAIR is steered by Prof. Mausam, Associate Professor at Dept. of Computer Science in IIT-Delhi and an affiliate faculty at the University of Washington and Dr Parag Singla. DAIR  has five core faculty researchers along with adjunct faculty members.  It also has running collaborations with researchers from other universities such as Max Plank Institute, University of Washington, IIT Bombay.

DAIR also recently welcomed Sayan Ranu who joined the CSE department as faculty last year and teaches Special Topics in Machine Learning.

Research: DAIR has been very active in publications and has an excellent track record of publications in areas such as Graph Mining, Computer Vision, Information Extraction (IE) and the recent papers have been accepted at flagship machine learning conferences such as IJCAI, NIPS, KDD.

Our Take: Even though IIT Delhi’s DAIR may be relatively new, the group has been producing an astounding work in AI and data science. For those, with an interest in Information Extraction, graph mining, computer applications, IIT Delhi is a good place to start. Besides, DAIR has also undertaken projects of national importance such as the analysis of NREGA employment dataset and opinion mining of Indian political social media feeds.

2.IIT Bombay: IIT Bombay recently snuck a bold victory over IIT Delhi, IIT Madras and IISc Bangalore by securing a ninth position in Top 20 varsities in the BRICs countries in the annual QS BRICS University Rankings 2018. Besides the global recognition, IIT Bombay has been leading in computer science education in India, is a foremost research institute in India with internationally visible work in fields including databases, data mining and automatic speech recognition to name a few.


Faculty: Led by Dr. Pushpak Bhattacharyya, a well-known name in the NLP community and known for his groundbreaking research in NLP, Sentiment Analysis, ML, machine translation and Information Extraction (IE), the faculty comprises of other well-known names such as Ganesh Ramakrishnan, Sunita Sarawagi, Soumen Chakrabarti. The faculty also regularly interact with industries and businesses, transferring technology and facilitating computerization of activities. Case in point — Prof. Sarawagi’s software for segmenting and cleaning Indian addresses is deployed in banks and other financial institutions.

Research: IIT Bombay has a history of research and development in the area of databases, going back to the early 1980s. Today the institute has significant heft in not just database research but in information retrieval (IE), and data mining with Prof. Sunita Sarawagi, Soumen Chakrabarti and Ganesh Ramakrishnan joining the faculty.

We found more than 15 published papers under machine learning and data science such as Intelligence Sales Forecasting Engine Using Genetic Algorithms, 2010 and one tailored for the ecommerce market, published in European Journal of Operational Research titled, A fast method for discovering critical edge sequences in e-commerce catalogs, 2007.

Our Take: IIT Bombay is well-known for its research in databases, data mining and IE and has interesting research-oriented activities. Backed by an eminent faculty, the institute performs extremely well on all fronts — from research to teaching, funds generation, international collaboration and many more. This year, IIT B also unveiled their Research Park ASPIRE (Applied Science Park for Innovation Research & Entrepreneurship) located on the outskirts of the campus. The idea is to foster entrepreneurship and build a strong industrial relationship by starting R&D centres on campus.

3. IIT Kharagpur: With the distinction of being the first IIT to be established, IIT Kharagpur houses an excellent lab and takes a lead in areas such as Network Mining (Complex Networks Research Group, IIT Kharagpur).  

Faculty: The Department of Computer Science has stellar faculty with Prof. Niloy Ganguly well-known for his work in online social networks, Asst Prof Sourangshu Bhattacharya  who teaches  machine learning and advanced machine learning, Associate Professor Animesh Mukherjee who specializes in information retrieval, NLP and human language evolution.

Research: IIT Kharagpur specializes in research areas like Bioinformatics – designing algorithms to facilitate the biological and medicinal research, data and web mining, computer vision and its application in diagnostics, disease modelling, telemedicine and human activity analysis. The institute’s Visual Information Processing Lab focuses on the development of new techniques across Image Processing, Computer Vision, and Computer Graphics. The research group also works in the emerging areas of 3D Imaging, Bioinformatics, Medical Diagnosis, and Telemedicine among other areas.

Our Take: IIT Kharagpur is quite aggressive when it comes to publishing Deep Learning papers. The institute also fares better in Computer Vision and its research group works in emerging areas of 3D Imaging, Bioinformatics, Medical Diagnosis, and Telemedicine among other areas. Buzz is that IIT Kgp is striving to become a centre for AI research. The institute is also well-known for its work in statistical machine translation and there is a body of research around it.

4. IIT Madras: IIT Madras has stepped up its efforts in accelerating research in data science and AI. The institute recently tied up with Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions (RBEI) to set up a Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBC-DSAI). Things are looking up for IIT-M which wants to score a lead in AI talent race and wants to make an impact by collaborating with different stakeholders — government, academic, research and industrial collaborators on core challenges in data science and AI. The newly-minted research centre will also receive funding to the tune of INR 3 crore- 4 crore funding a year for five years. According to IIT-M’s Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi, the institute had been making strides in interdisciplinary data sciences and artificial intelligence research group for more than three years.

Faculty: IIT Madras Associate Professor Balaraman Ravindran heads the Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and AI. He is well-known for his work in social network analysis and Data/Text Mining and teaches Reinforcement Learning. Associate Professor Benny Raphael specializes in areas like optimization, machine learning and computer-aided engineering among other areas.

Research: IIT Madras is leading in Reinforcement Learning and a lot of good research work is coming out of the institute. Besides, the Robert Bosch Centre is set to undertake foundational research in several areas of machine learning, AI and data science — deep learning, reinforcement learning, network analytics, interpretable machine learning, and domain aware AI.

Our Take: One of the mandates of Robert Bosch Centre at IIT Madras is to take up industry interaction and facilitate more faculty exchanges. The centre will also advance research to support the Digital India program. Ph.D aspirants can immensely benefit from the industry collaboration and do a lot of outreach projects as well.

5. IIT Kanpur: IIT-K’s Assistant Professor Purushottam Kar has an interesting take on this. He stated how IIT-K is a relatively new entrant in the field but has stepped significantly with research groups and reading sessions which bring about activity and generate interest among students in the area. This has been the model so far but it might not suffice given the demand for the area [ML, AI], he specified. Of late, IIT K has reinvigorated the interest in machine learning and data science with young faculty that has taken charge of the CSE department.

Faculty: In the same vein, Assistant Professor Piyush Rai too talked about IIT-K’s new faculty with Asst Professor Vinay Namboodiri specializing in computer vision and machine learning, Arnab Bhattacharya leading in databases/data-mining, Amitabha Mukerjee specializing in AI/NLP and Harish Karnick in ML.

Research: The institute published  body of work on Probabilistic Machine Learning at top ML conferences and has also done interesting research work in Computer Vision, Data Mining, optimization, NLP and even Robotics. To know, check the link.  

Our Take: The institute is mulling over setting up a department of Data Sciences/Machine Learning to help students gain a better understanding of statistics, learning, inference and mining. IIT-K also has a Special Interest Group on Machine Learning of Computer Science — SIGML that discusses the latest developments in ML, computer vision, data mining and NLP. It has a very active lecture series, seminars and reading groups centred around the buzzing topics. All in all, IIT-K is a good place to pursue a Ph.D in data science or ML.

Richa Bhatia
Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.

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