February 25, 2014
Peter Fox, director of the interdisciplinary Information Technology and Web Science program, chair of the Tetherless World Constellation, and a professor of earth and environmental science and computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been elected president of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Federation.
The ESIP Federation is a consortium of Earth science data and technology professionals spanning government (including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation), academia, and the private sectors, both commercial and nonprofit. The organization is dedicated to transforming research data and information into useful and usable data and information products for scientists, decision makers, policy makers, and the public.
Fox has been a longtime advocate for the academic study of data science, and said he hopes his leadership of ESIP will offer an opportunity to promote the formal study of the science of data science.
“Pretty much all the practices around data management and data science are ad hoc, trial and error, and not necessarily well shared,” said Fox. “Having the opportunity to lead this organization gives me the chance to inject a greater degree of the academic basis for data science, which will hopefully, in turn, create greater demand for well-educated, well-trained data scientists within the data community.”
Typically, said Fox, data scientists begin with a background in another field – biology, chemistry, earth sciences, for example – and learn data skills on the job. Fox predicts that increased demand for academically trained data scientist will encourage greater integration of data science into graduate and undergraduate curricula.
“My goal is that when Rensselaer students graduate, they should be able to work from day one as data scientists,” said Fox. “There’s a major workforce gap, and my work at Rensselaer and with ESIP is an opportunity to influence that.”
Big Data, broad data, high performance computing, data analytics, and Web science are creating a significant transformation globally in the way we make connections, make discoveries, make decisions, make products, and ultimately make progress. Fox’s research, under the auspices of The Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications—or the Rensselaer IDEA—is a component of Rensselaer’s university-wide effort to maximize the capabilities of these tools and technologies for the purpose of expediting scientific discovery and innovation, developing the next generation of these digital enablers, and preparing our students to succeed and lead in this new data-driven world.