It is widely recognized that a growing amount of data, and the data science used to process them, are increasingly affecting a broad range social and economic processes.   These often large and complex data sources – hereafter referred to as “big data” – have also led to increasing opportunities for those researchers using these data and studying its impact on individuals and society.

In tandem with the University as a whole, the Social Science Division recognizes that harnessing these data and understanding their impact can be challenging to single researchers or units alone.  To address some of these challenges, the Division established a faculty committee last year to take stock of our needs in this area.  Headed by our Associate Dean for Research, Till von Wachter, this committee worked to identify best practices at our peer institutions for better harnessing the opportunities brought by the data revolution and to better understand its multi-faceted impacts on society.

As part of this Big Data Initiative, we are happy to launch Big Data Social Science which features a series of concrete measures aimed at improving support of big data-related and data science research in the Division. As UCLA as a whole is moving to better support this kind of work, these measures will serve as an important building block towards expanded research support for the Division.

Through a range of interviews and surveys of interested faculty and researchers, the Big Data Initiative isolated three desired goals to better support big data and related research: (1) the need for research support, such as statistical programming, and data base or IT management; (2) the need for an intellectual community around this work; and (3) the need for more targeted and more inclusive data science teaching.  These measures will complement and expand existing resources at UCLA. They will also dovetail with similar new efforts to support big data related and data science research for UCLA as a whole.

Welcome to Big Data Social Science!