USI eyes the "science of data"


Institutional Communication Service

8 April 2015

Every day our societies produce a vast, ever-growing amount of data. Through these "digital crumbs" we leave behind, it is possible to outline a detailed profile of human behaviour. Geographic location, mobility, social habits, buying behaviours, opinions and preferences are just a few examples of the data that we produce every day through a large variety of digital devices we increasingly entrust to manage our lives. These data represent a unique opportunity for social and scientific progress, but they require new tools to improve their management, analysis and interpretation. This is the research area of Data Science.

The University Council of USI has agreed to pursue this fascinating opportunity by giving the green light to the creations of the InterDisciplinary Institute of Data Science (IDIDS). The project, devised by professors Alessandro Lomi and Antonietta Mira with the valuable support of the Leonardo Foundation, is considered of strategic importance for the growth and development of USI.

The new Institute can count on solid skills that are currently available both at USI and throughout the regional community. IDIDS will develop techniques for information analysis from various disciplines such as statistics, informatics, economics, artificial intelligence, communication sciences, urban planning, physics and information technology, using state-of-the-art analytical and computational methods applied efficiently to large samples of data.

The founding of the Institute is the result of accurate considerations that emerged from a series of eight public lectures held at USI during the academic year 2013-2014 by experienced and worldwide-acknowledged researchers from prestigious centres such as Harvard, Northwestern, Aalto, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and ETH Zurich.

A key objective of the IDIDS is to become a reference point where various skills and different approaches can convene and be combined for further development through interdisciplinary research projects, thus expanding the scope of Data Science beyond the academic world into the economy and society.

To encourage a direct link between academic research and the economy, involving the local communities and making them aware of the relevance of these topics, the Institute will host a first round of public events named Data and Society: opportunities and concerns. The events will take place (in Italian) from April to June 2015 on the Lugano campus, with the participation of leading figures in this particular field of research:

Data and Society: opportunities and concerns

April 21th - 6 p.m. Auditorium
Data algorithms and black boxes
Ciro Cattuto, Data Science Laboratory, ISI Foundation

April 28th – 6 p.m., Auditorium
Big Data: Big Errors or Big Opportunities?
Stefano Icaus – Università degli Studi, Milan, director of the Data Science Lab

May 19th – 6 p.m., Auditorium
Dynamics of illegality. Data and simulations.
Rosaria Conte – Istc-Cnr, Rome, director of the Laboratory of Agent Based Social Simulation

June 16th – 6 p.m., Auditorium
Science, data, and society: from the periodic system to the drowned and the saved
Nicola Marzari – EPFL, Lausanne, director of NCCR Materials’ Revolution: Computational Design and Discovery of Novel Materials (MARVEL)

The videos of the conferences are available for download from the USI page on iTunesU