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By Jayasree Jaganatha, Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) – 

Notes, takeaways, and resources from our September 2022 event

On September 12, 2022, Carolina Data Science Now hosted the seventh iteration of its seminar series, which will strive to link the people, research, and resources by highlighting the many faces of data science across our campus, and demonstrating the integral role data science can play in all disciplines.

This Month’s Speakers

The theme of the event was “Live: School of Data Science and Society.” Alison Friedman, the James and Susan Moeser Executive and Artistic Director of Carolina Performing Arts, kicked off the conversation by welcoming attendees to the UNC CURRENT Art Space + Studio, discussed the importance of data to the performing arts, and emphasized the critical nature of data storytelling and analysis.

The event was moderated by Stan Ahalt, Executive Adviser and Domain Scientist for Team Science at the Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC. Previously RENCI’s Director, Dr. Ahalt is the Inaugural Dean of the UNC School of Data Science and Society. Additionally, he is a Professor in the UNC Computer Science Department and the Associate Director of Informatics and Data Science at NC TraCS. In this role, Dr. Ahalt leverages his expertise and resources to foster clinical and translational research across the UNC campus.

The speakers were selected to provide insight on how the new School of Data Science and Society will impact the University, research, and students, faculty, and staff.

Kevin M. Guskiewicz | Office of the Chancellor

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz spoke to Dr. Ahalt about his excitement for the new School of Data Science and Society and how its impact will benefit the futures of UNC students.

Read more about the lightning talk here.

Penny Gordon-Larsen | Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research

Vice Chancellor for Research Penny Gordon-Larsen spoke to Dr. Ahalt about how UNC Research will capitalize on the new School of Data Science and Society.

Read more about the lightning talk here.

Kathryn Desplanque | Department of Art & Art History

Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Kathryn Desplanque spoke to Dr. Ahalt about her experience as a humanist who has woven data science methods into her research and how the new School of Data Science and Society can support humanist researchers at UNC.

Read more about the lightning talk here.

Speaker Q&A

Questions for the speakers were collected through an EasyRetro board as well as from live audience members. Topics during this section included:

  • The undergraduate programs envisioned for the School, including a Bachelors in Science in Data Science and a Bachelors in Arts in Data Science, both implemented with a high degree of flexibility which will allow students to create a custom curriculum path and gain data literacy for specific disciplines. The timeline for the start of these degree programs is 2024, and the committee behind the School is currently working on cementing a curriculum that offers interdisciplinary exploration.
  • How the University may use data science and data science students to improve how the University operates, address key problems, and support the Carolina roadmap in the future. Chancellor Guskiewicz shared that there are many departments and programs across the University that will complement the new School, and expressed interest in hearing how students feel like the School can fill any existing gaps.
  • Ways that the School can address racial equity, connect with local communities and tell better stories using data from all industries, including sharing quantitative data alongside quantitative data and using datasets that connect with students’ backgrounds and experiences.
  • The School’s boundary object — data itself. Dr. Ahalt emphasized that data is the language of collaboration, and will give interdisciplinary researchers the chance to speak in that same language. Additionally, he shared plans to hire “boundary people” who have experience in multiple disciplines and can serve as a bridge within teams.
  • Potential roles for translational data science experts at the new School.
  • Understanding and addressing biases in data collection by respecting boundaries, asking appropriate questions and hiring diverse and representative staff.

During the event, several attendees shared resources relevant to the conversation. A full list of educational programs, funding opportunities, on-campus support services, tools and software, and more shared during Carolina Data Science Now seminars can be found on our Resources page.

To read more about the event and School of Data Science and Society, check out “School of Data Science and Society gains momentum” in The Well.

Next Seminar

Our next seminar will be held on October 27 at 12 PM (ET). Please stay tuned to our website for the most updated information.

Check out a playlist of our previous events here.

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