Dear Bruin Community:
We write to formally announce the launch of DataX, a new set of institutional structures designed to help UCLA respond to the ever-expanding role of data in society and the academy.
There can be no question that our lives and countless disciplines are being reshaped by a massive increase in the collection, analysis, and application of digital data. From commerce to research archives to social media, data and information are changing how we interact with and understand the world. The application of data is opening up new research and career opportunities in areas like personalized medicine, artificial intelligence, and digital humanities; yet it is also surfacing a suite of unprecedented issues related to privacy, security, bias, governance, and more. The ability to navigate within today’s data-rich environment rapidly is becoming a necessity for everyone, no matter their professional interests or academic pursuits.
Building on our strong foundation in data science, UCLA is responding to these transformations by developing a campus-wide entity that will expand opportunities for students across the disciplines to work with data; assist researchers in a variety of fields to incorporate data analysis into their work; and stake out a leadership position for UCLA in exploring the foundations, applications, and implications of the data revolution.
The campus will invest an initial $10 million to advance DataX. This will include the launch of the first iteration of an organizational structure to support the effort, the DataX Homeworld. Over the next three years, the DataX Homeworld will facilitate the hiring of 18 new faculty shared with existing departments; underwrite the creation of six interdisciplinary DataX cluster courses on topics of societal or scientific importance that will be accessible to students without extensive technical backgrounds; and provide support for 18 interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowships as well as graduate student researchers and new research working groups. The Office of Research & Creative Activities will work with DataX to take advantage of new research opportunities benefitting the campus. This will include a major “Collaborathon” during the 2021-22 academic year designed to build community, promote interdisciplinary research, and foster new research opportunities through seed grants and investments in the diverse fields that DataX touches.
In the future, we anticipate that two long-term structures will emerge from the DataX Homeworld. UCLA’s DataX Institute will be our campus’s hub for data-related research and teaching with a tripartite focus on fundamental data science; applications and creative activity; and the ethics and societal impact of increased use of data. We also plan to launch a DataX Support Network, which will embed staff experts versed in data science techniques across campus to aid faculty and students with research and teaching. We hope to inspire significant philanthropy to support the growth of the DataX Institute and DataX Support Network.
All of the DataX efforts will be animated by a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, recognizing the need for data-enabled work to serve all communities. DataX will support and align with other campus initiatives like Rising to the Challenge and our plan to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution by 2025, and it will maintain a focus on hiring and training a diverse cohort of faculty and students. DataX also will emphasize engagement with the Los Angeles region as core to new research and teaching efforts.
We would like to express our deep appreciation to the many faculty and staff who contributed to developing this vision for DataX. In particular, we would like to thank Associate Professor of Sociology Jacob Foster and Distinguished Research Professor of Mathematics Mark Green, who in February of 2019 were tasked with building a strategy and structure for data science research and education at UCLA. Their consultative process was extensive, including meetings with more than one hundred faculty, the Academic Senate’s Council on Research, the Deans Council, and many others. They also held four town halls to obtain community feedback on emerging plans and issued to campus units an open call for white papers, of which they received 42. Professors Foster and Green worked tirelessly to weave the ideas gleaned from this bottom-up consultation into a conception of DataX that is true to UCLA’s strengths, values, and commitments. After further consultation with the Academic Senate, they will release a final report later this quarter. They also will work in concert with the Senate on the rollout of the initiative.
As a surge in the availability, analysis, and application of data continues to alter so many aspects of our lives, the DataX initiative will be essential to securing UCLA’s position as a leading public research university and to empowering our students with the skills they need to thrive within a data-driven society — while also promoting understanding of the profound social and ethical implications of this trend.
We encourage you to get in touch with Professor Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org and Professor Green at email@example.com if you are interested in getting involved in this effort at this juncture. We look forward to sharing more about the growth of DataX in the months ahead.
Emily A. Carter
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Vice Chancellor for Research and Creative Activities