Data Science

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A dedicated and diverse community of scientists, administrators, and funding institutions at UC Berkeley are reshaping the culture of research by establishing best practices in data science and testing the limits of computation. Several organizations apart from the D-Lab and the Simons Institute have a hand in data science on campus, and while data science may have recently emerged as a hot field, many of these data-focused organizations are not new. The Data Lab in the Doe Library has been available to help students locate and analyze data since October 2008. The Department of Statistics has long hosted consulting-style office hours for researchers in other fields. In addition to these and other university-wide initiatives, many departments have their own workshops and seminar series to arm researchers with field-specific skills to attack data-heavy research questions.

Now in its inaugural year, BIDS is a multifaceted, collaborative effort by professors and scientists from diverse disciplines across campus, the UC Berkeley library, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. BIDS leaders hope to extend their ambitious agenda beyond the five years of funding they have received. They are establishing a presence in the Doe Library, which is both a strategic and symbolic move—the library is physically in the middle of campus, and as the central library, it is by definition an interdisciplinary space.

Other groups that practice data science on campus focus on specific fields and problems. The AMPLab (short for “Algorithms, Machines, and People”) was established in 2011 specifically to deal with big data problems. AMPLab is a government- and industry-funded collaborative research team that focuses on creating powerful analytics tools combining machine learning, cloud computing, and crowdsourcing to solve big data problems. Its faculty and students mostly belong to the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In the social sciences, the Social Science Matrix (SSM) is another new center dedicated to fostering creative, interdisciplinary research at Berkeley. It funds over 60 research projects, working groups, and research centers around campus, many of which are interdepartmental collaborations. Additionally, the School of Information recently rolled out a new Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) program. Its curriculum is designed to prepare students to solve real world problems involving complex data.