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$3M NSF Grant Will Fund PhD Student Training in Data Analytics, Visualization and Science Communication

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The Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS) has been awarded a five-year $3M National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) grant to support graduate students from the departments of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Biomedical Informatics, Computer Science, Ecology and Evolution, and the schools of Journalism and Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. This unique and interdisciplinary grant is for Science Training & Research to Inform DEcisions (STRIDE). The award will prepare the next generation of scientists working with big data to support complex decision-making.

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Left to right, back row: IACS and STRIDE PI Robert Harrison; CoPIs Arie Kaufman and Janet Nye. Front row: CoPIs Liliana Davalos, Heather Lynch and Christine O’Connell. CoPIs not pictured: Joel Saltz, Erez Zadok and Minghua Zhang

STRIDE is an innovative training program that will provide STEM graduate students with unique interdisciplinary skills to assist, create and eventually lead the translation of complex data-enabled research into informed decisions and sound policies. These include skills traditionally taught to science students such as data analytics and visualization. The unique contribution of STRIDE is also to prepare scientists by building skills in decision support that are often not explicitly taught, such as understanding the perspectives of various stakeholders, science communication, and translating scientific uncertainty.

IACS Director Robert Harrison is the PI for this project: “Decision support and all of the skills it entails are essential for high-impact science, and this need cuts across many disciplines. Our team is really excited about how this project will transform both our University and especially the careers and leadership opportunities for our students.”

The training program encompasses spatial data, advanced visual data analytics, and high-performance and data-centric computing. Uniquely, the program also incorporates a domain discipline, science communication, including interpersonal skills and modern media (at the Alda Center for Communicating Science), as well as decision-making. It also offers relevant internships at Department of Energy laboratories, IBM and NOAA.

The interdisciplinary nature of STRIDE is reflected in the faculty involved. The Co-PIs are: Liliana Davalos, associate professor, Ecology and Evolution; Arie Kaufman, distinguished professor and chair, Computer Science; Heather Lynch, associate professor, Ecology and Evolution; Janet Nye, assistant professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; Christine O’Connell, associate director, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and assistant professor, School of Journalism; Joel Saltz, Cherith professor and founding chair, Biomedical Informatics; Erez Zadok, professor, Computer Science; and Minghua Zhang, professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

“We are thrilled to be part of this exciting collaboration and work with fellows to help them communicate complex data science to decision makers, especially on health and environmental issues where it is crucial that policy and management decisions be based on sound science,”  said Alda Center Associate Director Christine O’Connell.

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