Tag Archives: BIDS

5 Things I wish I knew about Berkeley at least 2 years ago (instead of just 1)

UC Berkeley is a huge melting pot of interesting people, groups, communities, assemblies, departments, services…the list could continue ad nauseum. We’ve seen the impressive interplay of collaborations between these departments put together by Natalia Bilenko, with data scraped from the PubMed database. This article strives to share some of the communities that I have only

The Berkeley Institute for Data Science: Part II

In the first part of this blog post, I reported on the opening of the new Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS). Today, I am going to share with you some of the ways that UC Berkeley scientists are using and analyzing “big data.” At the BIDS event, there were both talks and poster presentations highlighting recent projects. Here’s just a small taste of what was happening!

Solomon Hsiang, Assistant Professor of Public Policy

IMG_3039Hsiang’s work focuses on the effect of the environment on human society, and recently his lab reconstructed dozens of storms in the Philippines and linked that information to detailed, household survey data. They found that in a given year after a storm, there was an increased risk of not having basic assets such as walls, electricity and plumbing. These storms cause a localized economic depression, and people significantly reduce their expenses on nutritious food, education and medical care, while infant mortality significantly increases. Matching data to the distribution of where people live in the Philippines, and based on hidden costs and economic losses, these events tend to be “roughly 15 times more costly than what you see in the newspaper” — highlighting the importance of rebuilding efforts after storms.

Rosemary Gillespie, Professor of Environmental Sciences

The Berkeley Eco-informatics Engine will integrate biological and environmental data to learn more about how organisms respond to global changes. Currently, the default is to use the physiological constraints of organisms, such as temperature and precipitation tolerance, to predict where organisms might go, but this method does not always predict behavior well. The Berkeley Eco-Informatics Engine will bring together huge amounts of diverse data in an open API development to allow integration and analysis of huge amounts of data. This will include looking at museum specimens, each of which is associated with a space and time, and using geo-spatial base layers such as land cover, climate, and the history of the landscape to predict response to climate change.

The Berkeley Institute for Data Science: “Everyone is going to have to become a data scientist”

On Thursday, December 12th, 2013, hundreds of Berkeley scientists, students and industry folk gathered to celebrate the opening of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS), a multidisciplinary support system that will provide incentives, infrastructure and support for scientists from all departments hoping to jump on the big data wagon. Funded to the tune of 37.8 million by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Gordon and Betty Moore, BIDS represents the future of science, and part of a larger trend to improve technological advances in the United States, as the White House recently pledged $200 million to its own “big data initiative” at its “Data to Knowledge to Action” event last month, where the BIDS partnership was announced.

Nobel Laureate and Director of BIDS Saul Permutter on how programming environments should not be an obstacle to scientists: "I don't think God wrote in C."

BIDS is part of a collaborative project with New York University and the University of Washington, and is led by a team that includes Berkeley astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate Saul Perlmutter. The new center at Berkeley will be housed at 190 Doe Library, a national landmark known for its history; it is a space that will now be known for moving UC Berkeley into the future.

What is big data and why do we need an institute for it? Big data really refers to the massive amounts of information that we are now able to obtain due to advances in technology — from smart phones and web clicks to geographic positioning systems to genomic data and beyond! Recognizing the importance of statistical knowledge and computer programming skills to harness this type of data, and the need for people to cross fields and also for academia to stay relevant in a time where industry may lure tech-savvy individuals away, BIDS is in a key position to address the current and upcoming changes to how we think about science.

Nicholas Dirks kicked off the ceremony by pledging that innovation in research was a core focus for him as the new chancellor of UC Berkeley, and that big data will “bring departments and programs together in unprecedented ways.” Vicky Chandler, a geneticist and chief program officer from the Moore Foundation, stated that this project is a bold set of experiments that will change the culture at Berkeley and will revolutionize how science is practiced.

Saul Perlmutter, the new director of BIDS, underscored the importance of bridging the gap for underrepresented populations (important food for thought at a heavily Caucasian and male event) and discovering what is slowing down scientists who are less “data science savvy.”  Programming environments should not be an obstacle for scientists, he said, noting, “I don’t think God wrote in C.”