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OU aims to provide students skills, solve global challenges through new Data Science Institute for Societal Changes

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Dr. Díaz de la Rubia

OU's vice president for research and partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia talks about projects taking place in Peru Feb. 28.

When OU unveiled its strategic plan for the future Tuesday, it also announced a new data science institute for societal challenges.

The institute was established in an effort to allow the university and its students to utilize data science and apply the knowledge to “real-world problems,” according to a Friday press release.

In an interview with The Daily, OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia said the goal of the program is to analyze the global challenges the world faces as humanity moves toward a more digital society, and work toward solutions to those challenges.

“It’s really important ... to put the University of Oklahoma at the center of excellence in data science so that we can educate our students to come out of the university with skills that are very desirable by companies and entities that are going to hire our students,” Díaz de la Rubia said.

In the press release, David Ebert — who is the current associate vice president for research and partnerships, as well as director of the new institute — said he is optimistic the institute will solve challenges in artificial intelligence research and enable AI users to make more effective and informed decisions.

In addition to technology, the interdisciplinary institute will study and create data with the intention to impact energy use and the climate, Ebert said in the release. 

“We are going to accelerate integrative data research and educate the workforce to ensure Oklahoma’s prominence in being able to solve these global challenges,” Ebert said in the release. 

According to the release, the institute will advance visual analytics through its research and provide technologies to help industries and communities adapt to the increasingly digital landscape of the 21st century. 

Díaz de la Rubia said in the interview the institute will benefit undergraduate and graduate students across the university by allowing them to engage in research related to data science. 

“We wanted to enhance and build on (OU’s existing data science program) and be able to build a research effort that builds on the capabilities, the excellence that we already have,” Díaz de la Rubia said in the interview. “For the future of OU and for the benefit of the students of the university we really (have to) focus on research excellence in data science.”

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