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CHIPS Articles: National Science Foundation advances US ability to harness data revolution

National Science Foundation advances US ability to harness data revolution
By National Science Foundation News - September 11, 2020
Data science is a rapidly growing field that requires the expertise of computer scientists, mathematicians and statisticians to handle the analysis of ever-larger data sets. Big data affects how industry, academia and government operate, and the U.S. National Science Foundation is committed to leading the nation in foundational data science research.

NSF is pleased to announce Transdisciplinary Research in Principles of Data Science, or TRIPODS, a collection of research projects tied to Harnessing the Data Revolution Big Idea. This big idea aims to accelerate discovery and innovation in data science algorithms, data cyberinfrastructure, and education and workforce development.

"With NSF's $25 million investment, these interdisciplinary teams will be able to tackle some of the most important theoretical and technical questions in data science," said Division Director for Mathematical Sciences Juan Meza.

Additionally, these TRIPODS institutes contribute to fostering a robust workforce in STEM, by engaging students and trainees from diverse disciplines, hosting summer school programs and other outreach events, and maintaining connections with industry to focus on real-world applications for data science.

Given the importance and scope of these fundamental challenges, NSF is supporting two teams over five years focused on these topics in related but distinct ways.

Foundations of Data Science Institute is a collaboration between the University of California-Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, partnering with Boston University, Northeastern University, Harvard University, Howard University and Bryn Mawr College. The goal is to better understand issues within data science including modeling, inference, computational efficiency and societal impacts. Research themes include the complex interactions between decision makers, the data they use and competing actors as well as methods for making use of vast amounts of data.

Institute for Foundations of Data Science is a collaboration between the University of Washington partnering with, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Santa Cruz and University of Chicago. Their research will lead to methods that are more computationally efficient, robust to errors and incomplete or ambiguous data, and better able to respond and act in changing environments. The team will also study the ethical and societal implications of data-driven algorithms, including privacy, unfairness and bias.

Both teams are dedicated to diversity and inclusion and will feature extensive activities for different educational levels and career pathways. For instance, the Foundations of Data Science Institute plans to recruit participants for its workshops from groups traditionally underrepresented in fields related to data science and arrange meetings that enable them to work with senior researchers. Likewise, the Institute for Foundations of Data Science will organize events targeting diverse groups of middle school, high school and undergraduate students through local partnerships.

"The TRIPODS program continues to lead the way in Harnessing the Data Revolution by addressing the most challenging and fundamental problems in data science," said Division Director for Computing and Communication Foundations Rance Cleaveland.

Principal investigators for this effort are Maryam Fazel of the University of Washington, Stephen Wright of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Piotr Indyk of MIT, Peter Bartlett of the University of California, Berkeley, and Lise Getoor of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Principal investigators for this effort are Maryam Fazel of the University of Washington, Stephen Wright of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Piotr Indyk of MIT, Peter Bartlett of the University of California, Berkeley, and Lise Getoor of the University of California, Santa Cruz. NSF photo image
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