UChicago launches center for data science and computing research

Center for Data and Computing will support interdisciplinary, innovative research across campus

The University of Chicago is launching the Center for Data and Computing, a research center for developing new methods in computation and data analytics and applying them to ambitious projects across the full spectrum of science and scholarship.

The Center for Data and Computing, which opens this summer, will provide computationally focused, interdisciplinary projects at UChicago with resources, space and a network for collaboration on campus and around the world. The center will award seed funding to a select group of projects, house and provide administrative support to core projects with external funding, and organize workshops, talks and other gatherings that generate fresh ideas from UChicago faculty, researchers and students.

“Building capacity for computation-based projects is essential to advance research, education and the impact of scholarly work in a wide range of fields,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “Collaborative efforts using data science, artificial intelligence and other computing approaches are rapidly creating dramatic new opportunities for academic work as well as new entrepreneurial opportunities. The center will support and encourage transformative activities with these tools.”

The center will work closely with the expanding UChicago Department of Computer Science, while sitting between departments and divisions, incubating data and compute-intensive applied research initiatives that cut across traditional boundaries. The center will be led by a faculty director and be located in the renovated John Crerar Library, which is scheduled to reopen in the fall.

The new center builds on the successes of the Computation Institute, which will close later this year. The institute’s legacy is one of forward-looking projects, which built and managed technologies that enable global sharing of scientific data, applied high-performance computing to studies of the universe, genetics and climate change, and developed novel, data-driven tools for studying cities, public policy and the humanities. The institute was founded in 1999 to foster collaborative and applied computational research.

“Over the last two decades, data and computing have transformed research, from traditionally data-intensive fields such as physics and astronomy to new territories such as the humanities and social sciences,” said Michael Franklin, the Liew Family Chair of Computer Science and senior adviser to the Provost on computation and data science. “The Computation Institute was essential in positioning the University of Chicago at the crest of this wave, creating new technologies and multidisciplinary strategies that accelerated discovery both here and around the world.”

Upon its launch, the Center for Data and Computing will host continuing research collaborations from the Computation Institute and other areas of campus. The inaugural group of projects will be selected by its faculty director and a steering committee made up of faculty members from across campus. The center also will provide opportunities for researchers from UChicago-affiliated laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab and the Marine Biological Laboratory to participate in data science and computing collaborations with UChicago faculty.

“As we expand computer and data science at the University, the center will be the primary interface for building new partnerships and projects that span departments and enable important discoveries,” Franklin said. “The center will help define the future of these cutting-edge approaches across the breadth of intellectual domains on campus.”