Big data, data science studies gaining popularity at institutions across the country.

data-scienceOver the next five years, the University of Michigan will invest $100 million in a new Data Science Initiative intended to help better connect students and faculty researchers to data science and the study of big data’s implications for society.

Under the Data Science Inititive (DSI), the university plans to hire new faculty over the next four years, expand the university’s research computing capacity, offer new learning opportunities for students pursuing careers in data science, support data-related research initiatives and foster new methodological approaches to big data, and strengthen data management, storage, analytics, and training resources.

The move comes as researchers and those working with big data reveal the extent to which it impacts society–from transportation, to medicine, to campus student records and interactions, and more.

In one project at the university’s Mobility Transformation Center, researchers are collecting a continuous stream of data at a rate of 10 times per second from each of nearly 3,000 private cars, trucks and buses on the streets of Ann Arbor in order to test the operation of connected vehicles. The DSI will help collect, store and analyze the amount of data being generated even as the number of vehicles expands to more than 20,000.

“Data science has become a fourth approach to scientific discovery, in addition to experimentation, modeling and computation,” said U-M Provost Martha Pollack. “To spur innovation while providing focus, the DSI will launch challenge initiatives in four critical interdisciplinary areas that build on our existing strengths in transportation research, health sciences, learning analytics and social science research.”

The university also will establish the Michigan Institute for Data Science to lead research and educational activities in big data.

Other universities are following suit.

Faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder started to notice when more alumni took careers in the data analytics field. Spurred by this trend, the Department of Applied Mathematics created a new statistics minor with several classes focusing on data analytics and data use.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione

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