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 equivalent of the peer-review journal.”

In a nod to the major campus collaboration that helped UC Berkeley secure funding for BIDS, Chancellor Nick Dirks noted that innovation in research is one of the central pillars of his agenda. “I can now claim I’m moving ahead” on that, he joked.

Through advances in the use of data “we can revolutionize how science is practiced” and thus “stimulate discoveries,” predicted Vicki Chandler, chief program officer for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s science program. The Moore and Sloan foundations have together pledged $37.8 million, shared by UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and New York University, for data-science work over five years.

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