According to Xingye Qiao, associate professor of math at Binghamton University, it is important to have institutions dedicated to studying data in a world increasingly driven by it.
Qiao will chair BU’s new data science transdisciplinary area of excellence (TAE). The TAE initiative was launched in 2013 to address issues with the methodologies and perspectives of multiple disciplines, according to the TAE website. Along with data science, the other TAE initiatives include citizenship, rights and cultural belonging, health sciences, material and visual worlds, smart energy and sustainable communities.
According to Qiao, data science is a rising discipline that utilizes statistics and computer science to make predictions for a variety of scholarly fields.
“Groundbreaking research and scholarship in many fields increasingly rely on data and computational approaches, leading to fundamentally new approaches to asking and answering questions,” Qiao said. “Seeing the great need on campus, I and a few of my colleagues proposed to create a new TAE in data science.”
Donald Nieman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said he was impressed by the merit and diversity of the data science TAE faculty while reading proposals for the new group.
“It included faculty who do cutting edge work in data science and who are developing new methodologies to analyze data, as well as faculty in almost every area of campus who are using data to address critical issues in their disciplines,” Nieman said. “In addition, it was clear that this broad and diverse group work together very well, creating a true transdisciplinary team.”
The data science TAE will have three focal points for research: the fundamentals, which include statistics and computer science; data-enabled discovery, which focuses on analyzing data; and real-world application.
Nancy Um, chair of the art history department, said she joined the data science TAE because she felt it was important that the humanities fields were included in the new group.
“Humanities scholars are becoming increasingly interested in new data-driven and computational approaches to research,” Um said. “As an art historian, I engage the possibilities offered by data visualization and digital mapping as historical tools. In particular, I have tried to use both strategies to understand the movement of art objects over time and space.”
According to Kenneth Kurtz, associate professor of psychology and another member of the data science TAE, data science is an important addition to the initiative.
“The TAE program up until this point did not address the important domains of learning and computation,” Kurtz said. “I am hopeful that the TAE will help to galvanize cross-disciplinary training and research on our campus through the common lens of finding meaning in data.”