Big news in big data
The University of Georgia will significantly expand its instruction and research in the critical area of informatics with the formation of the Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education.
The GII will be administered by the College of Engineering and will include faculty members from across campus to create new synergies that enable research advances in fields ranging from data analytics and cybersecurity to public health and agriculture. The GII also is developing an informatics core curriculum that will serve as a foundation for discipline-specific informatics programs.
An interdisciplinary, seven-member faculty planning committee charged in 2015 by Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten began exploring ways to build upon the university's established strengths in informatics, and their plan established the framework for the proposal to create the GII.
"The ability to extract meaning from large volumes of data is transforming business and our understanding of the world," Whitten said. "By establishing the Georgia Informatics Institutes, our faculty have put the University of Georgia at the forefront of the information revolution."
Informatics is a broad field that encompasses the generation, storage, processing and analysis of massive data sets. A Presidential Informatics Hiring Initiative that was completed earlier this year has brought eight new informatics faculty members to campus who will work in seven departments and five of the university's schools and colleges. In total, UGA has more than 160 faculty members who apply informatics to fields such as health, business, the environment, digital humanities and engineering. To foster collaboration and bring nationally recognized speakers to campus, the university will host its first-ever, day-long informatics symposium on Oct. 11.
"The Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education is another great example of UGA leading the way as a public research university," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "The GII will enhance the university's ability to prepare our students for successful careers in informatics while expanding research and collaboration in areas of vital importance to our state and nation."
Kyle Johnsen, an associate professor in the College of Engineering and the inaugural director of the GII, said that planning is underway for an undergraduate certificate program in informatics as well as a graduate certificate program. A foundational course in informatics is currently being offered through the College of Engineering for students in any major, and it covers topics such as the evaluation, analysis and visualization of data. Experts from business, industry and other fields will play a role in the GII through a technical advisory board that will provide input on strategic directions.
Johnsen notes that the demand for workers who possess skills related to data analysis and security is high in Georgia and across the nation. A study from Burning Glass Technologies, which provides labor analytics tools, found dramatic increases in demand for cybersecurity workers in industries such as finance (137 percent increase over the past five years), health care (121 percent increase) and retail trade (89 percent increase). Georgia is an international center of financial technology, with two-thirds of payment card transactions passing through the global networks of Georgia companies.
"The GII will be a hub for informatics research and instruction that will promote collaboration among faculty members and give our students the knowledge and skills they need to fill some of today's most in-demand positions," Johnsen said.