Munther Dahleh will lead MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. Image: Lillie Paquette
Munther Dahleh will lead MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. Image: Lillie Paquette

In September 2014, MIT Provost Martin Schmidt announced the Institute’s plans to create a “New Entity” focused on socio-technical systems, information and decision systems, and statistics. On Wednesday, the deans from MIT’s five schools revealed that this New Entity will officially launch on July 1, 2015, and will be named the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS).

Munther Dahleh, the William A. Coolidge Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will direct the cross-disciplinary program. Under Dahleh’s leadership, researchers will address societal challenges in areas including energy, social networks, health care, and global online learning.

“In order to understand things like power outages and bank failures, you still need electrical engineers and economists—but today you also need anthropologists and data scientists, too,” Dahleh told MIT News. “Our ability to collect and aggregate data is already well beyond our ability to understand what it could tell us—and no single discipline, on its own, holds the keys to solving this problem.”

At IDSS, plans are already underway to launch a new MIT center on statistics. The leadership team has also designed an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in statistics, and a PhD program is in the planning stages.

Thomas Davenport, a professor at Babson College and research fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business, believes there is an urgent need for a deeper understanding of such complex system dynamics. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he said, “I expect some interesting and useful perspectives and insights to emerge from this new entity once it gets cranked up.”

To learn more about IDSS:

Read Provost Schmidt’s letter to the community regarding IDSS

At MIT News: Deans Announce New Institute for Data, Systems, and Society

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