• March 5, 2019

What is Data Science and How are Universities Reacting?

data from pexels via pixabay under cc0 license

What is Data Science and How are Universities Reacting?

What is Data Science and How are Universities Reacting? 940 627 Vantage Technology Consulting Group

Data science has exploded in the higher education space over the last 2 to 3 years. Universities are adding courses, offering new majors, starting new departments and even embarking on plans for new multi-million dollar building projects.

In this article Vantage applies its unique strategic and technology engineering skills to pinpoint why and what it means for the future of research and education by asking:

  • What is data science?
  • Why is it so hot right now?
  • What are the key elements to designing a great data science center?
  • How are universities reacting?

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What is Data Science?

Data Science applies the rigors of scientific method, asking questions and testing ideas out of the data that permeates our world. A wide range of disciplines are coming together, using data science, to tease new insights from the information we create to tackle a wide range of multi-disciplinary challenges – from campus planners seeking to optimize the use of campus space to Nobel-prize-winning economists leveraging gaming and social media to revolutionize student-centered curriculum.

Data science is evolving so quickly that it’s hard to put firm boundaries on the definition.

Excerpted from an article in Thinkful

At its most basic level, data science is a multidisciplinary field focused on finding actionable insights from large sets of raw and structured data using a combination of computer science, statistics, machine learning and predictive analytics.

Despite the name, Data Science is not a STEM discipline – the emerging field is fueled by the discovery and collaboration of practitioners from all walks of life – and includes thought leaders from a variety of fields including healthcare, city planning, psychology, sociology, business, economics, entrepreneurs and research.

Why is Data Science So Hot?

Simply put, a confluence of events is driving the data science boom:

  • Volume: Our world is filled with data like never before – according to a recent article in Forbes, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day
  • Velocity: We now have access to untold processing power and software tools with which to actually process all the data.
  • Variety: There is a new culture of cross-discipline collaboration, with thought leaders combining expertise, data, and tools to make new discoveries
data created every day - infographic via GE Reports

Excerpted from Big Data Infographic from GE Reports

Experts are calling the data explosion the Fourth Industrial Revolution and this revolution represents all the new ways in which data and technology are becoming embedded in our lives. Coupled with continued growth in mobile computing, artificial intelligence, online browsing and social media, internet of things, online video and images, and data management, the world is literally buried in data waiting to be analyzed and for insights to be found.  Graduating students find data science the most promising job prospect in 2019, with nearly 30% annual growth in demand and pay.

An article titled “Reality Regained: An Inquiry into the Data Age” in MIT Technology Review sums up the situation we are facing today:

“Massive data generation is the distinctive mark of our age, and data availability is its holy grail.”

What are the Key Design Elements for Data Science Facilities?

Based on our experience with designing classrooms and educational buildings and helping institutions with their current and future technology needs, Vantage is in a unique position to help with the technology and space visioning for data science facilities.

Building permeability will be the driving design principle for data science facilities. Permeable learning spaces allow activities, conversations and expertise to readily filter through a building and encourage movement, interaction and collaboration. The main idea behind data science facilities will be to collocate experts together into one place where they can interact and share insights and providing them with a permeable environment with lots of open space, glass walls, whiteboards and pathways that encourage collaboration will be essential.

While any building design starts with understanding a client’s needs through a series of interviews, design thinking workshops and other research, there are certain elements that will be part of any design. Data analytics may even be used to design some of these facilities.

Some high-level features that will likely be standard in data science facilities include:

Norwich University Mack Hall - Cyber War Room

Norwich University Mack Hall – Cyber War Room, Photo Credit: Will Horne

How are Colleges and Universities Reacting to the Data Science Surge?

Institutions are rapidly increasing investments in their data science programs and facilities, in some cases announcing eye-popping initiatives to get to the top.

“Computing is no longer the domain of the experts alone…It’s everywhere, and it needs to be understood and mastered by almost everyone.”

Rafael Reif, president of MIT

Because of the newness of the field and high demand for data scientists, many Universities and Colleges are augmenting and expanding their existing courses, setting up new degree programs and investing in new departments and buildings to bring the multiple disciplines together under one roof. These programs are vying to be the leader in this nascent field and it will take several years for these investments to begin paying off and leaders to emerge.

To address the need for data scientists, here are excerpts from the announcements of the more notable investments in data sciences programs and facilities since the beginning of 2018:

From CIO-level technology planning to leveraging data science for new curriculum insights to designing data-science enabled research and learning environments, our consultants have extensive experience at the leading edge of these trends.  Contact us to further the discussion or follow the link below to see how we’ve helped other educational institutions succeed.