From health care, economics and astrophysics to climate change, digital humanities and the promise of smart cities, the world is in the midst of a data revolution. Complex, massive and unique data sets are being generated and analyzed across a broad spectrum of disciplines at an unprecedented rate.
To capitalize on its strengths, the University of Toronto has launched the Data Sciences Institute (DSI), a community of talented faculty members, researchers, staff and students spanning fields and faculties pursuing exciting research that addresses a variety of global challenges.
“The Data Sciences Institute brings together researchers from various disciplines across the University of Toronto and the University Health Network, the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, establishing Toronto as a leading centre for research into advancing data science,” said Lisa Strug, academic director of the DSI and a professor in the departments of computer science and statistical sciences in the Faculty of Arts & Science.
“By connecting data science researchers, data and computational platforms, the DSI will both advance research and nurture the next generation of data- and computationally-focused researchers.”
Data science – the science of collecting, manipulating, storing, visualizing, learning from and extracting useful information from data – is fast becoming a key tool in the development of solutions designed to address society’s most pressing challenges and opportunities.
Led by the Faculty of Arts & Science, the establishment of the DSI enables U of T to mobilize cross-disciplinary data science research and training and support a data science research network across U of T through which members can learn from each other and foster the development of new methodologies and approaches to data sciences research.
“New technologies in every facet of academic and daily life are producing increasingly large-scale, complex data with the potential to inform some of the most pressing societal questions, in completely new ways,” said Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science. “As an interdisciplinary approach rooted in strong foundational computer, mathematical, statistical and engineering sciences, the Data Sciences Institute will serve as a visible and welcoming entryway for U of T data science activities, and a visible focus to attract world-class faculty and students.”
Driving global change
The DSI, U of T’s latest Institutional Strategic Initiative (ISI), embodies the university’s ability to bring together talented faculty members, students and industry spanning fields and faculties to tackle key world issues. Each ISI is carefully designed to enable strategic, cross-divisional, excellence-driven research.
“Global issues require a global response. As one of the world’s top ten ranked universities producing influential research, U of T is uniquely positioned to become a leader in data sciences,” said Christine Allen, associate vice-president and vice-provost, strategic initiatives at U of T. “The Data Sciences Institute will help cement Toronto and U of T as leading destinations for the 21st century’s most exciting, relevant and promising fields, building an inclusive pipeline for training and research that acts as a global source of talent, innovative ideas and solutions.”
The DSI, officially launching with a Sept. 17 celebration featuring keynote presentations by internationally recognized scholars and data science specialists, demonstrates what is possible when world-class scientists and practitioners converge and work across disciplines. The DSI represents a network of partners from across U of T and partner health-care institutions that include:
- Faculty of Arts & Science
- Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
- Faculty of Information
- Dalla Lana School of Public Health
- U of T Scarborough
- Temerty Faculty of Medicine
- McLaughlin Centre
- U of T Mississauga
- Rotman School of Management
- The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
- University Health Network
- Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute
Call for members and funding opportunities
“We are building a community of – and for – researchers to enable the advancement of data science methodology and application through the provision of funding and networking opportunities among other benefits,” said Strug. “Membership to the DSI is open to faculty members, students, and researchers of any kind from across U of T’s three campuses and partner health-care institutions.”
The DSI will provide more than $10 million in grant funding and research supports to members through various collaborative programs. The first major funding opportunity is a Catalyst Grant competition offering up to $100,000 for collaborative research teams focused on the development of new data science methodology, or the use of existing methodology in innovative ways to address questions of major societal importance. Members will be awarded grants to support investigations of their own design for up to two years. Interested applicants must submit a notice of intent to apply by Oct. 15, 2021. The application deadline is Nov. 1, 2021.