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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. Vice Chancellor Gordon-Larsen discussed her office’s role in setting strategy for the University and facilitating collaboration. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research is responsible for overseeing the research centers and institutes, including RENCI, which does important work with data and cyberinfrastructure, and the Carolina Population Center and the Sheps Center, which deal with big data sources. Her team is excited to figure out new ways to bring these groups together, along with the new School, to support, develop, and grow new data science threads across campus. Vice Chancellor Gordon-Larsen looks forward to seeing how the School will bring in exceptional faculty hires, new and exciting ways to utilize data science, and training opportunities for students, who are a major talent pool for research initiatives across campus. When asked about her thoughts on creating a healthy pipeline to bring more data into classrooms to improve teaching and research, she spoke on her team’s interest in making data interoperable on campus. As an example, the lessons that came from the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics on campus, were implemented to make the next stage of clinical trials more efficient and effective. However, this success was followed by the increasingly complex issues of access, supply chain, and refrigeration. Problems such as these require multiple perspectives, a variety of data science methods, and collaboration between disciplines. The School will aid Carolina in its quest to create clusters of interdisciplinary research, especially when it comes to students and data science training opportunities. Vice Chancellor Gordon-Larsen is particularly eager to see how the new School will bring in expertise to introduce new data science methods that can tackle complex issues. She and Dr. Ahalt then discussed how the new School will help researchers and students address ethics and legal issues in areas such as AI and data privacy and avoid causing unintended harm and consequences. The committee behind the new School plans to weave in ethical issues into every level of its flexible curricula, and Vice Chancellor Gordon-Larsen advised that data storytelling should be given importance — thinking critically about data, and its origin, history, and ownership.

Click here to view the talk on YouTube.


Penny Gordon-Larsen, Interim Vice Chancellor

Department: Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research | Faculty Profile

Featured on: September 12, 2022 (Event Page)

Session Title: LIVE: School of Data Science and Society (Event Recap

Tools, Information, and Resources:

  • RENCI: RENCI (Renaissance Computing Institute) develops and deploys advanced technologies to enable research discoveries and practical innovations. RENCI partners with researchers, government, and industry to engage and solve the problems that affect North Carolina, our nation, and the world.
  • Carolina Population Center: The team at the Carolina Population Center believes that understanding how and why populations change over time is key to advancing the well-being of all people. Their faculty, staff, and students conduct research on population, health, aging, and the environment, and share data and findings that push the field forward and train the next generation of population scholars. 
  • Sheps Center: The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research seeks to improve the health of individuals, families, and populations by understanding the problems, issues and alternatives in the design and delivery of health care services.