New York University has established an Initiative in Data Science and Statistics that aims to harness today’s torrent of data in order to make advances in medicine, science, technology, business, and a range of other fields. The university-wide effort will include the creation of a Center for Data Science and graduate-degree programs in this emerging academic discipline.
“Data Science is becoming a necessary tool to answer some of the big scientific questions and technological challenges of our times,” explained Gerard Ben Arous, director of NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, which will house the Center for Data Science and a master’s-degree program.
“By making better use of the enormous amount of readily available data, we will be better equipped to address a range of vital questions: How does the brain work? How can we build intelligent machines? What is the structure of the universe? How do we find cures for diseases? How can we predict human behavior?” said Yann LeCun, director of the new Center for Data Science.
Data Science--using automated methods to analyze massive amounts of data and extract knowledge from them--is a set of methods that is becoming core to many areas of business, science, engineering, and government. Last year, the White House announced a multi-agency initiative in “Big Data” that aims to speed the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen national security, and transform teaching and learning. In addition, a growing number of companies, including several based in the New York City area, are driven by Data Science—IBM, AT&T, Google, Facebook, Microsoft —along with pharmaceutical, financial, insurance, and media industries, as well as Web companies such as bit.ly, Etsy, Foursquare, and Twitter.
Because this deluge of data is transforming the way business, government, science, and health care are carried out and because an increasing amount of new knowledge is being derived by automatically analyzing massive amounts of data, this new discipline has emerged to help provide the underlying theory and methods of the data revolution. The methods of Data Science lie at the confluence of statistics, computer science, and mathematics, but the impact of Data Science promises to be felt across a broad range of disciplines in the physical, life, and social sciences, as well as in technology, business, government, and medicine.
At the same time, there is a growing and largely unfulfilled demand in industry for data scientists. The United States faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the analysis of big data, McKinsey & Company reported in 2011.
In addition, while some of today’s data are readily interpretable by machines, much of it is unstructured material captured from the real world: sensors from scientific experiments, pictures and videos from the Web, Web usage data, location data from smartphones, and customer data from e-commerce websites, to name just a few.
NYU’s Initiative in Data Science and Statistics marks a response to the field’s growing demands by establishing a research center and a master’s program that will train future practitioners and scholars.
The Center for Data Science will be composed of faculty from across the university. The Center’s work will not only include means to better manage the growth of data, but also seek to exploit it in ways that can yield an array of social and economic benefits.
The two-year master’s program will begin accepting applications in February 2013 and commence this fall. In addition, NYU also plans to establish doctoral program in the field.
The initiative builds on NYU’s existing strengths: probability theory, statistics, machine learning, data mining, forecasting, visualization, and distributed databases, with faculty at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, the Information and Operations and Management Sciences department at the Stern School of Business, Polytechnic Institute of New York University, the PRIISM center at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the Center for Health Informatics and Bioinformatics at NYU Langone Medical Center, and the newly created Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP). NYU faculty have been at the forefront of data-driven research in such diverse fields as astronomy/cosmology, business analytics, economics, genomics, medical informatics, neuroscience, political science, and psychology.