Changing the World with Data Science

“Today’s complex social problems require large-scale, partnered interventions,” says the Co-Director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative (HDSI) Francesca Dominici, Professor of Biostatistics at the Harvard Chan School. As the HDSI enters its second year, they have already built an impressive list of accomplishments in response to that challenge, and are positioned to continue to expand their impact.

Since its launch in March 2017, Harvard Schools have introduced three new master’s degree programs: biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School, health data science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and data science through the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. HDSI also sponsored multiple round table discussions to facilitate relationships between academia and industry around scientific impact on policy, interpretative models for precision medicine, and social and behavioral determinants of healthcare.

Major goals of the initiative are to facilitate access to data, support the development of rigorous methods, and promote innovative application to real world problems. To that end HDSI has supported various faculty and postdoc research efforts, including that of four postdoctoral fellows who will begin their work this fall. HDSI sponsored faculty research was also recently showcased at an open house event in May, including the work of Biostatistics Professor Jeffery Miller, who is using statistics to understand the molecular mechanisms of diseases of aging.

Come fall, research activity for the initiative will coalesce around personalized health, evidence-based policy, networks and markets, data-driven scientific discovery, and methodology. HDSI will fundraise to these themes, aligning them to program offerings, student and postdoctoral support, and research grants on issues ranging from smartphone-based digital phenotyping to statistical modeling in climate science. For more on HDSI’s accomplishments and recent activities, see this recent feature published in the Harvard Gazette.