School of Arts & Sciences Launches New Initiative in Data Driven Discovery

Jain and Ridgeway

The School of Arts & Sciences has announced the establishment of a new Data Driven Discovery (DDD) Initiative. A key priority of the School’s strategic plan, the DDD Initiative will act as a hub for data science education and research across the School. Bhuvnesh Jain, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Natural Sciences in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Greg Ridgeway, Professor and Chair of Criminology and Professor of Statistics and Data Science, are serving as the initiative’s inaugural co-directors.

Jain, who has worked extensively with big data gathered through major cosmological observation studies, focusing on gravitational lensing, notes, “We believe that data science is a powerful avenue for researchers in diverse disciplines to exchange ideas and work together on cutting-edge research.”

Ridgeway’s research is also data-intensive, involving the development and application of new statistical and analytical methods to improve understanding of crime and the functioning of the justice system. He notes that the initiative will be especially valuable to Penn students who, he says, “will have new opportunities to learn core data science skills and engage in projects at the frontiers of data science, generating a new kind of expertise and worldview.”

DDD will initiate new programs and provide a forum for interactions aimed at sparking discoveries by Penn faculty and students working across disciplinary boundaries. Its initial activities will include providing funding for postdocs developing and applying data science methods in their research and initiating a Data Science for Social Good seed grant program, designed to engage the Penn community in projects that address societal challenges affecting the well-being of a large number of people, including health, public safety, justice, clean air and water, education, employment, transit, and political representation. Applications for postdoc and Data Science for Social Good grants are now open on the DDD website.

Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience says, “The School has long recognized the power of data science to transform research and learning throughout the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. We are excited by the vision of the DDD Initiative and look forward to seeing the impact this program will have on expanding our collective skills and expertise, and in integrating the power of data science across the arts and sciences. Combined with the new opportunities that will undoubtedly result from the Innovation in Data Engineering and Science (IDEAS) Initiative being launched in Engineering, this is an exciting time for data-driven research and learning at Penn.”

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