It was standing room only in Sutardja Dai Hall’s Banatao Auditorium, with many more watching monitors in the overflow section, at Thursday’s high-energy launch of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science.

Right now, at Berkeley, is “the time and place to do this,” Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter, BIDS’ inaugural director, told the enthusiastic throng on hand for the kickoff.

In a world now awash in data but short on the skills and tools needed to tap and share its riches effectively, Perlmutter said, advances in data science could help scholars “find what’s available and contribute” in unprecedented ways: “We could invent the...

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