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Harvard Launches Data Science Initiative

By Mia C. Karr and Akshitha Ramachandran, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: March 29, 2017 at 7:56 a.m.

Harvard has launched the Data Science Initiative, a University-wide program that aims to bring together data scientists in different fields.

The primary objective of this program is to bridge disciplines and promote collaboration across Harvard through data science, according to a press release.

“This initiative will connect research efforts across the University in this emerging field. It will facilitate cross-fertilization in both teaching and research, paving the way to methodological innovations and to applications of these new tools to a wide range of societal and scientific challenges,” University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 said in the press release.

The initiative is led by Francesca Dominici, a biostatistics professor at the School of Public Health, and David C. Parkes, a computer science professor and dean at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. It is also guided by a Data Science Steering Committee consisting of seven professors, directors, and chairs from across the University, in addition to Dominici and Parkes.

“My ambition is to bring both the junior faculty and postdoctoral fellows who are working in data science across the university to connect with each other,” Dominici said. “[We want] to empower and enable them to be impactful in their respective fields of research.”

Dominici said that the new program will work closely with the Statistics department. She hopes the program will bolster the department and help facilitate future hiring.

“The goal is to make the existing departments stronger and more competitive to hire the best possible talent," Dominici said. "By having a cross-discipline platform, the goal is to facilitate and empower these departments to hire better candidates.”

Starting in fall 2017, the Initiative will host a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in data science. It will also sponsor a competitive research fund for projects “whose interests span all areas of data science,” according to the press release.

At the most recent Faculty meeting, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved a master’s degree in Data Science offered jointly by Computer Science and Statistics and slated to begin in fall 2018. The University also recently approved master's programs Biomedical Informatics and Health Data Science, hosted by the Medical School and the School of Public Health respectively.

“The ability to apply the power of new analytics and new methodologies in revolutionary ways makes this the era of data science and Harvard faculty have been at the forefront of this emerging field,” Vice Provost for Research Richard D. McCullough said in the press release.

—Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.

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FASSciences DivisionFAS AdministrationSchool of Public HealthStatisticsEngineeringData Analysis

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