The availability of vast digital traces at unprecedented form and scale has led to a data revolution. But the more data is available, the more theory of the underlying processes is needed to explain and interpret it. This is especially problematic when researchers attempt to make causal claims from data, neglecting the possibility of confounding factors. Even large sample sizes cannot overcome this limitation. Thus, research in big data needs to be cognizant of the theoretical and methodological questions and limitations, asking for an even tighter integration of computing, inference, and application domains, such as, an understanding of the complexity of making inferences in statistical models, the implementation of such models in software/hardware, and the development of process-oriented causal models (respecting the constraints of the various application domains) for explaining the results.
The Data Science Initiative will strive to delve deeper and more comprehensively into these fundamental issues. The Initiative, launched in summer 2018, will:
- Strengthen UC Santa Barbara’s visibility as a leader in the data science field in both academia and industry;
- Advocate for the recruitment of faculty members that can be situated across multiple departments;
- Serve as a needed interdisciplinary bridge for faculty and graduate students at UC Santa Barbara;
- Offer a sequence of undergraduate and graduate courses that will eventually lead to emphases, minors, and degree programs;
- Oversee the coordination of seminars, workshops, and postdoctoral training programs;
- Emphasize focused areas within data science and establish interdisciplinary centers that build on UC Santa Barbara’s strengths; and
- Train students with tools and techniques to uncover data-driven insights leading to innovations in business, academia and society.
Multiple research and education thrusts are already contributing to data science at UCSB, making this Initiative timely and greatly beneficial to many existing campus entities, such as, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Earth Research Institute, Brain Initiative, Quantitative Biology Initiative and BMSE, IGERT on Network Science, Center for Spatial Studies, Center for Information Technology and Society, Institute for Energy Efficiency, Center for Bioengineering, Center for Bioimage Informatics, and Mellon-funded WhatEvery1Says Project.