Building on its role as a global leader in digital media and communication, USC aims to further broaden its digital reach through a new initiative in digital knowledge and informatics, a broad academic field encompassing computer science, information technology, algorithms and areas of mathematics. USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett made the announcement in a memo to faculty and staff.
“This initiative, rooted in our ‘Strategic Vision, Matching Deeds to Ambitions,’ aims to support rigorous and consequential research and to create new approaches to teaching and learning,” wrote Garrett, senior vice president for academic affairs. “Considering the combined support of the university, the schools, and our research centers and institutes, I anticipate that we will invest at least $1 billion in this realm over the next decade.”
Joining Garrett in shaping the initiative are Executive Vice Provost Michael Quick; Randolph Hall, vice president for research; and Peter Siegel, vice provost and chief information officer.
From the Information Sciences Institute (ISI), which has shaped the Internet and its use for more than 40 years, to the personalized therapies driven by the work of the USC Epigenome Center to the top-ranked game design program, “USC sets the pace on the frontiers of digital media and informatics,” Garrett wrote. “While we are proud of our achievements in these areas, our leadership role demands that we do more.”
Designed to secure additional philanthropy and external funding, as well as ensure coordination and partnership across the university, the initiative will focus on four key areas to increase USC’s competitiveness in the two fields.
First and foremost, USC will continue to recruit faculty throughout the university whose work advances the initiative.
“No one is surprised that engineers and scientists grapple with the promise and perils of vast amounts of data, but the reach of this work also includes the humanities, where USC has long been an international leader in digitally enabled scholarship, and the quantitative social sciences,” Garrett wrote.
Secondly, the university will focus on enhancing its curriculum to better incorporate the influence of informatics, data and digital media. USC’s recently developed curricular offerings related to the initiative include a Master of Science in Computer Science (Data Science), a Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management and a Masters of Cyber Security.
Garrett encouraged USC faculty “whose research pushes the boundaries of online virtual environments, interactive technologies and game design to develop technologies that inform contemporary scholarly practices and pedagogy, to create new majors, minors and General Education courses, and to develop graduate programs that will train future academic leaders in informatics and digital knowledge.”
USC will also make significant investments in the infrastructure necessary to support research, creative work and pedagogy in informatics and digital media.
The university has already developed world-class information research systems, including the digital repository of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, the experimental USC Lockheed Martin Quantum Computation Center at ISI, and brain and body imaging centers on both campuses.
Adding to the list will be the Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall, which is scheduled to open next summer. The new building will host a diverse set of quantitative social science institutes and serve as a physical and virtual hub for researchers examining a range of interconnected societal issues. In addition, USC’s medical enterprise is working to improve patient-centered care through the implementation of a state-of-the-art electronic medical records system in its private hospitals and clinical practices.
Lastly, the initiative will focus on bringing informatics to the wider community. These efforts include the USC Family of Businesses initiative, which helps local businesses obtain broadband Internet connectivity and other technical services; the IWitness program, overseen by the Shoah Foundation, which allows students worldwide to access and interact with video and multimedia materials related to the Holocaust; and the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which provides resources that help investigators move discoveries through the research pipeline and into sustainable public health solutions for Los Angeles and throughout the world.
“Every school will be involved in this initiative, as will many institutes, departments and faculty,” Garrett wrote. “We will collaborate with deans, faculty and staff leaders to ensure that our anticipated investment is coordinated and has maximum effect.”