The Center for Digital Society and Data Studies has established a partnership with the Network for Earth-space Research Education and Innovation with Data (NEREID), an initiative of the Associated Universities, Inc. NEREID (ˈnirēˌid) advances research and innovation through education and engagement with big data in earth-space sciences.
Why NEREID and why now? As the 20th century came to a close, the rapid rise in high quality data acquired from all sources converged with Moore’s Law in a nexus of large scale structures of streaming data and powerful analytic and visualization tools, launching the Age of Big Data. Nearly 2 decades later, the world now creates 2.5 extabytes of data daily, and 90% of all existing data have been created within the last two years, (Bernard Marr, Forbes Magazine, May 21, 2018). Earth and space science data represent a significant and important source of these accumulating data. Remote sensing alone accounts for roughly 10 petabytes of earth science data, and in 2015 the largest astronomy data center provided approximately 100 petabytes of storage for astronomy data. And in the near future, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Square Kilometre Array will produce 7.3 petabytes and 1 exabyte of data per year, respectively. The rapid pace of this revolution in big data has resulted in a widening gap between learning and the demands of the science and engineering workplace. The urgent need for data science jobs will reshape the US workforce in the same way that the export and automation of manufacturing and resource extraction jobs, the emergence of the service sector and, more recently, the transformation of the technology sector through big data, robotics and machine learning reshaped workforce needs in the past. Yet the success of the data-driven economy is predicated upon the availability of skilled people to fill these jobs. While industry is feeling an ever-increasing need for competent data scientists and data analysts, the academic pipeline for producing a qualified and educated workforce to fill these spots is only now emerging, and there is a lack of a concerted and coherent message and exposure to data science that would attract students to these disciplines. Concerted efforts to address this issue are much needed, as they will ensure successful career paths for both current and future students.