New York University To Collaborate On Multi-Million Dollar Initiative To Harness Potential Of Data Scientists And Big Data

New York University, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Washington have launched a 5-year, $37.8 million, cross-institutional effort with support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to harness the potential of data scientists and big data for basic research and scientific discovery. NYU competed nationally with fifteen leading universities in the field of data science for this prestigious award, and will receive $12.6 million for its data science enterprise through this initiative.


This bold new partnership—a coordinated, distributed experiment involving researchers at these three leading universities—hopes to establish models that will dramatically accelerate the data science revolution. While data science is already contributing to scientific discovery, substantial systemic changes need to be overcome to maximize its impact on academic research. This ambitious multi-institutional partnership will spur collaborations within and across the three campuses and other partners pursuing similar data-intensive science goals.


The initiative was announced today at a meeting sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) focused on developing innovative partnerships to advance technologies that support advanced data management and data analytic techniques.

At a time when the natural, mathematical, computational, and social sciences are all producing data with relentlessly increasing volume, variety, and velocity, capturing the full potential of a progressively data-rich world has become a daunting hurdle for both data scientists and those who use data science to advance their research.


“It’s been hard to establish these essential roles as durable and attractive career paths in academic research,” explained Josh Greenberg, who directs the Sloan Foundation’s Digital Information Technology program. “This joint project will work to create examples at the three universities that demonstrate how an institution-wide commitment to data scientists can deliver dramatic gains in scientific productivity.”

Yann LeCun, Silver Professor of Computer Science and Neural Science at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and founding director of NYU’s Center for Data Science, will be one the leading researchers of the initiative. “With the onslaught of data, much of the knowledge in the world is going to be extracted by machines,” said LeCun. “Universities must find new ways to advance data-science methodologies while facilitating the use of new methods and tools by researchers from every field. Universities also have an opportunity to train new generations of researchers in data- driven science.”


“This initiative isn’t just to ‘do’ science—it is to ‘change’ science,” added NYU Physics Professor David Hogg, who is also part of the initiative. “To that end, we have designed a set of programs and positions at NYU that will help scientists in the domains—for example, astronomy, psychology, and sociology—interact with scientists in the methods—applied mathematics, statistics, and computer science—to make both groups of scientists more capable and more successful. We hope that by leading by example in these areas, we will encourage other universities in the U.S. and around the world to think about interdisciplinary programs and projects that will create new opportunities for young scientists to make breakthroughs using big, complex, and rich data sets.”


Each of the three universities will contribute additional resources to the investment made by the Moore and Sloan foundations, including new faculty positions, physical space on campus, and research support. Each of the partner universities distinguished itself in recent years by pioneering new approaches to discovery in fields as diverse as astronomy, biology, oceanography, and sociology through deep collaborations between researchers in these fields and researchers in data science methodology fields such as computer science, statistics, and applied mathematics.


To read New York University’s press release about this groundbreaking initiative, please click here.


By ML Ball


The NYU Center for Data Science is also pleased to invite applications for its inaugural class of Moore-Sloan Data Science Fellows. More information can be found at