History and Purpose
Starting Fall 2017, as part of the Data Science Initiative and spearheaded by Professor Luis Amaral, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering in McCormick, Chair of the Data Science Initiative Steering Committee, and Co-Director of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO), five groups of primarily tenured and tenure-track faculty began meeting monthly organized around three topics: Finite Earth, Computational Social Sciences, and Quantitative Biology. A total of 40 luncheons occurred throughout the 2017-2018 academic year, bringing together approximately 80 faculty members from eight of Northwestern’s schools and 31 academic departments for discussion and exploration of significant and upcoming research areas with a strong data science and analysis focus.
Four years later, 15 groups have convened for a total of 128 sessions and 175+ hours of intellectual discussion. An average of 76 faculty have participated each year involving 197 unique participants overall. Nine of Northwestern’s schools have been represented – McCormick, Weinberg, Feinberg, Kellogg, Pritzker, Medill, School of Education and Social Policy, School of Communication, and School of Professional Studies – as well as over 50 different academic departments and programs from across these schools. 2021-2022 marks the fifth year of convening data science-focused interdisciplinary groups of faculty.
The purpose of this “interdisciplinary research networking” model is to facilitate networking among faculty who may not otherwise have a chance to meet, stimulate discussion of significant and emerging research areas, and advance interdisciplinary research. Goals include new faculty connections and collaborations, innovative research agendas, collaborative publications, research grant proposals, potential new and joint hires, and identification of funding opportunities and new projects.
Due to the success of this model as a means of bringing together interdisciplinary groups of faculty to engage in discussion and exploration of research areas of priority to the University, the Office of Administration and Planning (OAP) has been working with a variety of units across Northwestern to expand this model and to offer a variety of new opportunities for faculty to connect.