McDonough School of Business Professors Utilize the Massive Data Institute’s Technical Infrastructure

Written by Tilde Jaques, MDI Journalism Intern

The Massive Data Institute (MDI) provides cloud-based technical infrastructure and support for faculty researchers at Georgetown University. Last spring, MDI began a partnership with the McDonough School of Business (MSB) to give access to this infrastructure to all MSB faculty. 

The MDI cloud-based compute infrastructure currently supports over two dozen MSB and associate researchers. Faculty have access to large-scale servers, compute clusters, GPUs, and data storage. The servers not only provide compute power and statistical tools, but also house multiple large data sets. 

While the MSB has its own research facilities, according to Vice Dean Rebecca Hamilton, “multiple researchers asked for additional resources in order to process and analyze heavier datasets” to advance their research. 

One such researcher is Reining Petacchi, an Associate Professor of Accounting at the MSB. Petacchi’s research focuses on understanding large audit firms’ internal inspection programs. Her team analyzes files from the past twenty years to find the most relevant information to compile more concise and informative audit reports.  Petacchi explained that MDI provides her with the infrastructure needed to use a Large Language Model to process audit reports, allowing her to isolate the part of the audit that actually contains a summary of the information needed.

Petacchi’s research provides insight into the efficacy of policies made by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, regarding the content of audits. A recent policy enacted in 2019 requires all auditors to include critical audit matters in their reports to streamline the information being communicated to shareholders and other readers. Petacchi’s research has shown that “this type of informative language becomes more pronounced after these regulations.” 

MSB Professor Simon Blanchard is also using the MDI technical infrastructure to facilitate his research. He is currently using monthly credit data to assess the effects of motivation on student loan debt repayment. Professor Blanchard said that “MDI secured access to data from a credit report agency” that gave him access to this data to support his research. MDI also provides the cloud server resources needed to process this type of large data. Professor Blanchard said that MDI has been “very helpful in requesting methods for remote access and cloud computing.”  As a new MDI faculty affiliate, Professor Blanchard looks forward  to “collaborating more with MDI and its scholars.”

This partnership has provided the crucial technology and infrastructure for MSB researchers to continue their cutting-edge research that continues to inform important public policy decisions. 

MDI Director Lisa Singh is excited about the potential of partnerships like this one. “It is complicated for every department or school to set up and maintain a large-scale, flexible research compute infrastructure that meets the needs of its faculty. MDI is in a unique position to be the place that faculty look to for research infrastructure support. We already have over 40 faculty members from across campus who have used our infrastructure and look forward to growing our collaboration with MSB and faculty in other schools.”