‘Year of …’ initiative will focus on Data and Society in 2021-22

The 2021-22 academic year will be the Year of Data and Society, Provost Ann Cudd announced. 


The “Year Of” initiative, started by Provost Patricia Beeson and continued by her successor Ann Cudd, focuses attention on one area related to the University for the course of the school year. Programs started during past years have continued and grown.

2020-21: Engagement

2019-20: Creativity

2018-19: Pitt Global

2017-18: Healthy U

2016-17: Diversity

2015-16: Humanities

2014-15: Sustainability

The theme builds on the Data Science Task Force report issued last year and provides a platform for launching some of its central recommendations.

The report outlined four overarching goals to “work toward a leadership position at the confluence of these areas of responsible data science.”:

  • Increase the reputation, visibility, and awareness of responsible data science within and outside the Pitt community. Create a shared and unified understanding of data science and of its importance across disciplines.

  • Require every undergraduate student to acquire a basic understanding of data and data methods, including considerations of responsibility, as part of their learning at Pitt.

  • Create, support and incentivize inclusive, flexible undergraduate and graduate educational programs and shared educational resources to offer training in data science — in context of a broad variety of domains — to students, postdocs, staff, and faculty

  • Implement a structure that knits together, in a visible, accessible, and central place, people and practices in data science; serves as an evolving source of knowledge in developing and applying responsible data science to overcome diverse, challenging problems, including ethics, policy, and legal aspects; and animates extraordinary ambitions and success in collaborations transcending disciplinary and community limitations.

“A focus on data and society is ideal for a university setting because this is where we gather together to research, analyze and try to better understand, and improve the world around us,” the provost said in her announcement. “Data science now permeates education, government, medicine, engineering, entertainment, science, the arts, humanities and business, touching nearly every facet of life. All parts of our University collect and use data and each offers unique perspectives on how data can contribute to student and faculty success, human well-being, and the greater social good.”

Eleanor Mattern, director of Pitt’s Sara Fine Institute and teaching assistant professor in the School of Computing and Information, will lead efforts around the Year of Data and Society. 

As in previous years, a committee of faculty, staff, and students will be formed to coordinate the Year of Data and Society. the Office of the Provost will provide matching funds to support events and projects related to the theme. More information — and a website — will be coming soon.

Cudd also said that the current Year of Engagement has been “a great success, giving us the opportunity to further enhance community building, deepen the existing connections between us and to create new ones.”

— Susan Jones


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