UC Berkeley News: Google Boss to Fund Data Science Initiative

Tiffany Lohwater Julie Gipple


A new research center at the University of California, Berkeley, funded by alumni Eric and Wendy Schmidt, will tackle grand environmental challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss, by combining data science and scientific of the environment. The Eric and Wendy Schmidt Center for Data Science and the Environment will make its new solutions available to everyone and ensure that they are practical and can be replicated and scaled for the benefit of society.

The rapid rise of new environmental data, computational methods and tools that connect people to data and each other offers the opportunity to dramatically increase the role of data science in solving environmental problems – from model development that predict forest fires to building tools that optimize carbon capture methods.

The new center will be funded by a five-year, $12.6 million commitment from the Schmidts. Developed through a partnership between UC Berkeley’s Computing, Data Science and Society Division and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at Rausser College of Natural Resourcesthe center will strengthen ongoing research and educational collaboration.

“Berkeley has long been at the forefront of research in the areas of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental justice, and the tools of data science are essential as we work to address the impacts of these environmental and other challenges,” said David Ackerly, dean of the Rausser College of Natural Resources. “This collaboration will create meaningful connections for research that can lead to important solutions.”

Openness and inclusiveness are at the heart of the new center, where there will be an intentional combination of computer science and environmental science with the principles of open science. Open science is a movement that aims to make scientific research and its dissemination accessible to all sections of society and develops knowledge through collaborative networks.

“From carbon concentrations in the highest parts of our atmosphere to microplastics in the deepest oceans, our natural environment is being impacted everywhere we look, but environmental solutions remain scarce, or out of reach where they are most needed. needed,” said Wendy Schmidt, who graduated in 1981 from UC Berkeley’s master’s degree in journalism program and is president and co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation and co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute and Schmidt Futures. “The Schmidt Center will help us all, and especially communities around the world on the frontlines of environmental impacts, work together to harness the power of data to spur innovation and drive action.”

Jennifer Chayes, vice president of the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society and dean of the School of Information, said the new center “will allow UC Berkeley to bring cutting-edge computing and data science to the most pressing issue of our time. : climate change and its effects on our environment.

The co-leads of the Schmidt Center for Data Science and Environment are Fernando Perezassociate professor of statistics at UC Berkeley and researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Douglas McCauley, adjunct associate professor of environmental science, policy, and management at UC Berkeley and associate professor of ecology, evolution, and marine biology at UC Santa Barbara. The center will be further advised by the faculty campus departments covering a wide range of expertise, including Sandrine Dudoit, Department of Statistics; Justin Brashares, Maggi Kelly, Carl Boettiger and Paolo D’odorico, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management; Charuleka Varadharajan, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Berkeley Institute for Data Science; and Joseph Gonzalez, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The center will recruit postdoctoral fellows and research engineers with expertise in environmental science, applied data science and software engineering to work closely with data and environmental scientists on projects. The center will also partner with communities and a variety of other stakeholders whose knowledge and expertise can affect how the research will impact them and be used locally.

“The biggest problem in climate science used to be lack of data. Now we have a lot of data and not enough understanding,” said Eric Schmidt, who earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley in 1982 and is a co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and Schmidt Futures. “Wendy and I look forward to supporting the talented community of scientists – across all disciplines, empowered with AI and machine learning solutions, at Berkeley and beyond – as they work to harness the power of data science to develop environmental solutions.”

Experts in the fields of computing, data science, environmental science and conservation will meet over the next year to advise on the first case study projects of the center. Potential areas of interest may include big data collection and synthesis, prediction and forecasting of environmental outcomes, and environmental management and decision support tools, which help analysts and others make better decisions, and faster.

This press release was produced by UC Berkeley News. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.