December 14, 2021
Yale plans to establish a new center—the Institute for Foundations of Data Science (FDS)—to increase dramatically the university’s expertise in and capacity for education and research in the field of data science.
Recently approved by the Yale Corporation, the Institute’s mission is to support and foster the mathematical, algorithmic, and statistical foundations of this emergent field and their applications in multiple domains. The FDS will play a central role in advancing the data science priority outlined by Yale’s University Science Strategy Committee Report by facilitating cross-disciplinary collaboration on campus in a variety of ways: through organizational support and funding for faculty research, training to students and postdoctoral fellows, and by aiding partnerships with leading researchers and practitioners in the field.
The FDS will be led by Daniel A. Spielman, who will be the inaugural James A. Attwood Director of the Yale Institute for Foundations of Data Science. Spielman is also Sterling Professor of Computer Science and professor of statistics and data science and of mathematics at Yale. Additionally, the FDS will be guided by an executive committee of members from core departments, as well as a steering committee of Yale faculty and academic leaders. A formal launch is anticipated in spring 2022. A search for an executive director to guide administrative tasks and event organization is also scheduled for 2022.
“It is a privilege to be able to lead this exciting new effort at Yale,” Spielman said. “It represents a point of intersection and great opportunity for so many experts and disciplines on campus. There is enormous momentum in the data science field at present and the Institute positions Yale to capitalize on this momentum and use it to drive significant breakthroughs.”
Following its launch, the Institute will be organized around programming of three types: long-, medium-, and short-term, with time horizons of five years, one to two years, and one semester or less respectively. Long-term programs will be largely dedicated to core research areas, involving a small number of committed faculty. Medium-term programs will focus on more specific applications of data science to particular domains, serving to motivate and translate foundations of data science into disciplines of practice. Short-term programs will organize mostly around one- or two-week workshops, often in support of medium-term programming.
“Our university science strategy report rightly observes that the world is currently undergoing a data revolution,” said Jeffrey Brock, Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, FAS Dean of Science, and Zhao and Ji Professor of Mathematics. “The very nature of the way information is being produced and interpreted has brought about a fundamental change in how new knowledge is acquired and understood. The Institute for Foundations of Data Science offers us the opportunity to lead in the development of new tools and understanding to address these changes, and to place these new forms of knowledge production on a firm foundation. The Institute’s mission has huge implications for a variety of fields— from basic science, to engineering and applied science, but also social sciences, and the arts and humanities.”
Dedicated space for the FDS is envisioned for fall of 2023. This space will be a key component in supporting the Institute’s convening functions, toward the goal of the Institute becoming a go-to resource for the data science community at Yale, within the thriving innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in New Haven, and well beyond.
“Any opportunity we have to increase our support for our academic and research missions is one we should look to capitalize on,” said Vice Provost for Research Michael Crair. “That said, this opportunity in the data science field is especially exciting because of its applicability in so many different domains—medicine, the arts, the environment, physical and engineering science. We are fortunate that the resources and the timing have aligned to make this new institute a reality, and we look forward to what the Institute and Professor Spielman’s leadership of it will help our community accomplish in the future.”
*Editor’s Note: This text has been updated to reflect the Institute’s new name, the Yale Institute for Foundations of Data Science (FDS), which was approved by the Yale Board of Trustees in December 2022. It previously referred to the Institute by an earlier moniker, the Kline Tower Institute; photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation.