Howard U. plans to tackle societal issues with new data research center

Following the announcement last week of a new research center dedicated to data analysis and research, Howard University’s academic director told EdScoop that the institution aims to attract more faculty and to bring together existing research efforts to solve deep societal problems using data.

Although professors at the historically black University of Washington DC are already integrating data and analytics into research and coursework, there is no school or college dedicated to applied data science. The Center for Applied Data Science and Analytics, announced after a $5 million donation from Mastercard, can serve as a “focal point” for any research or education effort, said academic director Anthony Wutoh.

To emphasize interdisciplinary research, Howard intends to recruit data science experts in various fields for tenure-track positions who will teach in their respective disciplines and work with the data science center. Researchers can study how to use data to counter bias in algorithms used to generate financial markers like credit scores, as well as in technologies like artificial intelligence.

Wutoh said one of the center’s goals is to prepare students for workforce challenges using data. Howard is also preparing to start a master’s degree in applied data science, which the new faculty will help design.

“Part of what we hope to accomplish is to really add to the diversity and expertise in this field so that graduates are trained and leave our programs and enter the field of work that they are aware of the impact they might have,” Wutoh said.

Since Howard does not have a data science college, the center can serve as a home for students and faculty already involved in data science research, he added.

“We knew we could probably create a strong academic program hosted in computing or hosted in information systems,” he said. “But we felt that having an interdisciplinary program with contributing faculty from across the university, including humanities and social sciences faculty, would really create the most comprehensive curriculum for our students and help provide them with the tools that would be required. to be as competitive and innovative as we think they should be as we enter the next generation of data science and data analytics.

Higher education institutions are supplementing their data science course offerings to meet demand for data skills. The University of Connecticut recently developed a new master data science and has partnered with online learning platform Springboard to offer courses, including some on cybersecurity. Other schools have recently launched master’s degrees in data science, including the University of Rochester and the University of California, San Diego. The University of Virginia this week broke ground on a new $35 million building for the School of Data Science, Virginia Business reported.

Sean N. Ayres