Chancellor announces launch of Data Science Planning Initiative

November 11, 2015

The following email message was sent to campus faculty on Nov. 11, 2015 by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele.

Dear Colleagues, 

Berkeley is developing an ecosystem of data science education and research that reflects the intellectual richness of the entire campus.  Building upon our outstanding research and graduate programs in this area, we are announcing the formation of a broad-ranging Data Science Planning Initiative (DSPI) to develop a comprehensive strategy for Berkeley’s leadership in this field and to engage our community in its formative stages. 

In announcing the DSPI, we recognize that the transformative potential of data science—its pervasiveness, significance, and continuing evolution—opens new frontiers of university research and teaching.  With intellectual roots in computer science, mathematics, statistics, as well as a variety of other disciplines, data science now touches many domains, from the natural and social sciences to the humanities and the professions. 

Our vision for data science at Berkeley encompasses all of its components: pushing the conceptual frontiers of the field, applying established or emerging technology to new areas or domains, and studying the normative implications of the explosion of data and analysis for policy and society. Accordingly, the DSPI is chartered to address the full spectrum of data science activity at Berkeley. This includes areas as diverse as computational social science, global climate studies, public health, precision medicine, and urbanization; work on the ethical dilemmas and social implications of data analytics; and advances in foundations such as statistical machine learning and cloud computing platforms. 

We are delighted to announce that Professor David Culler and Dean Anno Saxenian will serve as co-directors of the DSPI.  We are equally pleased that Professor Cathryn Carson has agreed to chair a faculty advisory board, and that L&S Undergraduate Dean Bob Jacobsen will be overseeing the development of the data science undergraduate program.  Please join us in thanking these colleagues for their invaluable service to Berkeley. 

We would like to take this opportunity to explain that the DSPI builds directly on the work of a multidisciplinary faculty group that we chartered last year to develop a blueprint for a broadly accessible undergraduate data science education program. Already our campus is piloting a Foundations of Data Science core course along with six ‘connector’ courses that span an impressive range of topical areas.  More courses will follow, building toward a comprehensive curriculum to meet educational needs of undergraduates in all disciplines.

We have charged the leadership of the DSPI with developing integrated plans for data science teaching and research appropriate to the diverse interests and strengths of the Berkeley campus, and recommending structures that would strengthen and coordinate data science campus-wide. A faculty advisory board will guide these efforts to build a data science initiative commensurate with Berkeley’s global leadership. In the year ahead, the DSPI will host a series of public events and conversations to engage scholars whose research or teaching interests are connected to data science. These outreach activities will aim to cover the landscape of data science activity on campus.  

Best regards, 

Nicholas B. Dirks         Claude M. Steele
Chancellor                   Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost