September 10, 2018

Data Collaboratives pipeline

Knowledge to Action Pipeine

UC Berkeley is launching a new form of collaboration that links students, government, community, and business partners to leverage data to help address complex social problems, from access to safe drinking water to disaster recovery to affordable housing.

The Data Collaboratives program, created with founding support from Schmidt Futures, will provide opportunities for student-driven innovations emerging in UC Berkeley’s thriving data science community to grow into broader collaborations for positive social impact.

“UC Berkeley is an ideal campus for this initiative – given its expertise in data science, deep commitment to tackling hard societal problems, and entrepreneurial students,” said Tom Kalil, Chief Innovation Officer of Schmidt Futures.  “I hope philanthropists, non-profits, government agencies, and companies will join with us to support this effort, and unlock the potential of data science to help solve our most pressing challenges.”

David Culler, Interim Dean of the Division of Data Sciences, adds, “We are proud to have this opportunity to work with Schmidt Futures and their fellow travelers in the public and private sectors to bring our students’ creativity and data science knowledge to bear on challenges facing the world they are graduating into.”

An early supporter of the program is investment management firm Two Sigma. “We are excited to connect the experience of our team with these students and the great tradition of UC Berkeley’s public mission to further grow this program,” said Andrew Janian, Head of Data Engineering.

The Data Collaboratives will build on existing opportunities for undergraduates to create and apply insights using data, such as Modules and Discovery programs. Modules are short projects embedded in courses across domains to give students the chance to work hands-on with data deeply related to their interests. Dozens of courses across UC Berkeley have incorporated data science Modules into their curricula, investigating word use in political speeches, immigration enforcement, and environmental justice, among other topics. 

The Discovery Program provides student teams with the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge data research while engaging with community impact groups, government, business and University researchers to address issues such as providing access to safe and affordable water, assessing and preventing the economic impact of disasters such as California’s wildfires, and better coordinating disaster relief donations.

The Data Collaboratives Program builds on these foundations and other data science initiatives across UC Berkeley, further empowering students to deepen their engagement in data science with real world applications. Promising social impact projects will evolve into Data Collaboratives that enable students, with the support of graduate student mentors and faculty, to work with decision makers in industry, government, and community organizations to use data science to address their most pressing challenges.

UC Berkeley’s Division of Data Sciences will work with campus partners such as West Big Data Innovation Hub, D-Lab, Big Ideas @ Berkeley, the California Policy Lab, the Blum Center for Developing Economies, Social Science Matrix, Berkeley Skydeck, CITRIS Foundry, Berkeley Seismological Lab, and Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) to cultivate potential Data Collaboratives projects. 

Kicking off this collaboration is an upcoming California Water Data Hackathon on September 14-15. The Division of Data Sciences and BIDS are hosting the hackathon to help find innovative ways to provide access to safe and affordable drinking water. The event is part of the California Safe Drinking Water Data Challenge (June 26 - October 1, 2018), an initiative that brings together state, community, and university partners to increase community access to safe drinking water, better understand vulnerabilities, and identify and deploy solutions. The event effort will involve interdisciplinary teams of students and researchers from multiple universities, and is expected to generate projects that will go on to be part of Data Collaboratives.

About Data Science at Berkeley

Recognizing that data science increasingly is a critical competency for students to thrive and contribute in today’s world, UC Berkeley is building on its rich foundation in the field to reimagine data science education to equip students to become not just consumers but producers of meaningful insights . 

  • More than 5,000 students a year take an undergraduate data science course at UC Berkeley. In the introductory Foundations of Data Science course, more than half of the students are women and more than 120 majors have been represented.
  • The UC Berkeley Data Science Discovery Program has connected nearly 500 students to more than 50 projects across diverse research and social impact areas.
  • The Data Sciences Modules program has incorporated data science content into the curricula of about 45 courses across UC Berkeley, reaching nearly 2,000 students a year.
  • The Data Scholars Program includes a seminar course designed to connect 30 to 40 students a year who are under-represented in data science fields with Discovery research projects across campus.

“The Division of Data Sciences has been able to build an entrepreneurial, student-focused ecosystem where undergraduate students are working with professors to develop novel data-focused curriculum for other undergraduates, and undergraduates are doing applied data science projects alongside with postdocs and researchers,“ said Eric Van Dusen, a Curriculum Coordinator with UC Berkeley’s Data Science Education Program.

About Schmidt Futures

Schmidt Futures works to advance society through technology, inspire breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, and promote shared prosperity.  As a venture facility for public benefit, Schmidt Futures drives discovery through investment in people, platforms, and partnerships. The initiative aims to nurture the best ideas and most promising leaders from across disciplines.  Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is committed to serving society in new ways with working methods that are modern, fast, lean, and professional. Learn more at


Get Involved

Be part of Data Collaboratives! Students, faculty, research, community, and philanthropy partners are encouraged to join this exciting program. To learn more, contact Anthony Suen: