Johns Hopkins University today announced a major new investment in data science and the exploration of artificial intelligence, one that will significantly strengthen the university’s capabilities to harness emerging applications, opportunities, and challenges presented by the explosion of available data and the rapid rise of accessible AI.
At the heart of this interdisciplinary endeavor will be a new data science and translation institute dedicated to the application, understanding, collection, and risks of data and the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence systems across a range of critical and emerging fields, from neuroscience and precision medicine to climate resilience and sustainability, public sector innovation, and the social sciences and humanities.
The institute will bring together world-class experts in artificial intelligence, machine learning, applied mathematics, computer engineering, and computer science to fuel data-driven discovery in support of research activities across the institution. In all, 80 new affiliated faculty will join JHU’s Whiting School of Engineering to support the institute’s pursuits, in addition to 30 new Bloomberg Distinguished Professors with substantial cross-disciplinary expertise to ensure the impact of the new institute is felt across the university.
The institute will be housed in a state-of-the-art facility on the Homewood campus that will be custom-built to leverage a significant investment in cutting-edge computational resources, advanced technologies, and technical expertise that will speed the translation of ideas into innovations. AI pioneer Rama Chellappa and KT Ramesh, senior adviser to the president for AI, will serve as interim co-directors of the institute while the university launches an international search for a permanent director.
“Data and artificial intelligence are shaping new horizons of academic research and critical inquiry with profound implications for fields and disciplines across nearly every facet of Johns Hopkins,” JHU President Ron Daniels said. “I’m thrilled this new institute will harness our university’s innate ethos of interdisciplinary collaboration and build upon our demonstrated capacity to deliver impactful research at the forefront of this critical age of technology.”
The creation of a data science and translation institute, supported through institutional funds and philanthropic contributions, will represent the realization of one of the 10 goals identified in the university’s new Ten for One strategic plan: to create the leading academic hub for data science and artificial intelligence to drive research and teaching in every corner of the university and magnify our impact in every corner of the world.
The 21st century is already being defined by an explosion of available data across an almost incomprehensible array of subject areas and domains, from wearables and autonomous systems, to genomics and localized climate monitoring. The International Data Corporation, a global leader in market intelligence, estimates that the total amount of digital data generated will grow more than fivefold in the next few years, from an estimated 33 trillion gigabytes of information in 2021 to 175 trillion gigabytes by 2025.
“It’s not hyperbole to say that data and AI to help us make informed use of that information have vast potential to revolutionize critical areas of discovery and will increasingly shape nearly every aspect of the world we live in,” said Ed Schlesinger, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. “As one of the world’s premier research institutions, and with our existing expertise in foundational fields at the Whiting School, Johns Hopkins is uniquely positioned to play a lead role in determining how these transformative technologies are developed and deployed now and in the future.”
Johns Hopkins has met the moment with several data-driven initiatives and investments, building on long-standing expertise in data science and AI to launch the AI-X Foundry earlier this year. Created to explore the vast potential of human collaboration with artificial intelligence to transform medicine, public health, engineering, patient care, and other disciplines, the AI-X Foundry represents a critical first step toward the creation of a data science and translation institute.
Additional JHU programs that will contribute to the new institute include:
- The Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science and its substantial and growing computing infrastructure facility on the Bayview campus in East Baltimore.
- The Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence, which has worked with hundreds of cities around the world to develop data-driven public sector solutions, using data, research, and analysis.
- The Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare, which brings together engineers, clinicians, and care providers to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment, reduce harm and adverse events, and promote patient and provider satisfaction.
- The Center for Language and Speech Processing, which is one of the world’s leading academic research centers focused on the science and technology of language and speech.
Johns Hopkins is also home to the renowned Applied Physics Laboratory, the nation’s largest university-affiliated research center, which has for decades conducted leading-edge research in data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to help the U.S. address critical challenges.
But there remains significant untapped potential to use data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to expand and enhance research and discovery in nearly every area of the university, particularly in fields where the power of data is only now being realized. As Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Alex Szalay, an astrophysicist and pioneering data scientist, has said: “The most impactful research universities of the future will be those with scholars who possess meaningful depth in data and another domain, and are equipped with the ability to bridge between these disciplines.”
To that end, the new institute will be a hub for interdisciplinary data collaborations with experts in divisions across Johns Hopkins, with affiliated faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows working together to apply big data to pressing issues. Their work will be supported by the latest techniques and technologies and by experts in data translation, data visualization, and tech transfer, shortening the path from discovery to impact and fostering the development of future large-scale data projects that serve the public interest, such as the award-winning Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
“The Coronavirus Resource Center is just one example of the power of data science and translation and its capacity to guide lifesaving decisions,” said Beth Blauer, associate vice provost for public sector innovation and data lead for the CRC. “Our ability to harness data and connect it not just to public policy and innovation but to guide the deeply personal decisions we make every day speaks to the magnitude of this investment and its potential impact. There is no other institution more poised than Johns Hopkins University to guide us.”
Johns Hopkins will develop this new institute with a commitment to data transparency and accessibility, highlighting the need for trust and reproducibility across the research enterprise and making data available to inform policymakers and the public. The institute will support open data practices, adhering to standards and structures that will make the university’s data easier to access, understand, consume, and repurpose.
Additionally, institute scholars will partner with faculty from across the institution in fields including bioethics, sociology, philosophy, and education to support multidisciplinary research that helps academia and industry alike understand the societal and ethical concerns posed by artificial intelligence, the power and limitations of these tools, and the role for, and character of, appropriate government policy and regulation.
“As both data and the tools for harnessing data have become widespread, artificial intelligence and data-driven technologies are accelerating advances that will shape academic and public life for the foreseeable future,” said Stephen Gange, JHU’s interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “The investment will ensure Johns Hopkins remains on the forefront of research, policy development, and civic engagement.”