Saturday, December 4

DataX initiative focuses on improving data science literacy among students

Faculty members Jacob Foster and Mark Green will co-lead the new university data science initiative, DataX. (Courtesy of Kathryn Kert Green and Erica Cartmill)

UCLA launched an initiative in September to improve data science literacy among students and promote data-based research across campus.

DataX, the new data science initiative, will hire faculty, design cluster courses and aid with graduate student research over the next three years to help students learn more about conducting research with data analysis. DataX will be funded with $10 million from UCLA during its first three years .

The DataX initiative was designed in response to the increasing impact of data science on research and the need for students to develop fluency with data science for their careers, said Mark Green, a math professor emeritus, and Jacob Foster, an associate professor of sociology, in a joint emailed statement. Green and Foster are the co-leads planning the DataX initiative.

Foster and Green added that the DataX initiative will focus on fundamental data science, innovative applications and research on the ethics and impact of using data in the real world. Students will learn to use techniques introduced in DataX courses to conduct research or develop new products in fields such as music and film, they added.

DataX Homeworld, the initiative’s main organization, will focus on gathering large-scale datasets for campus researchers, a typically expensive process, Green and Foster said.

Aadil Rehan, a third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, said he thinks many students would benefit from learning R – a statistical programming language – early in their UCLA careers.

Rehan added that he hopes to see an introductory statistics course that focuses more on data analysis and providing hands-on data experience for students.

Green and Foster said there are plans to develop multiple DataX yearlong cluster courses, which they hope to begin offering as early as the 2022-2023 academic year. These interdisciplinary courses would be designed for students with all levels of data experience, they added.

Rehan said he believes data science is more than processing numbers through a computer, and one should actively think about the data they analyze.

“The ultimate purpose of data is to tell a story,” Rehan said. “That, I think, is one of the really important things to remember when working with data.”

News senior staff

Oruganti is a News senior staffer. He was also the 2020-2021 Enterprise editor and a News staff writer in the City & Crime and Science & Health beats 2020. He is also a fourth-year cognitive science student at UCLA.

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