Creation of the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences

June 21, 2019

Dear Friends:

The world around us is becoming ever more interconnected and more engaged with computing and algorithms that are driven by machine learning, and which are based on ever more abundant data from every imaginable activity. Student demand for education in computing and data sciences is pervasive across our schools and colleges, and there are exciting opportunities for research in these disciplines and their application across all disciplines.

The University is responding to these opportunities. First, we are in the final stages of approval for the new Center for Computing & Data Sciences, a 380,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility to be built on Commonwealth Avenue. The Center will be home to the College of Arts & Sciences departments of Computer Science and Mathematics & Statistics, and the Hariri Institute for Computing, an all-University research institute. These academic and research units are critical to our strategy for leadership in these important fields.

In a parallel effort, last summer we constituted a Task Force to Envision Data Science at Boston University, chaired by Daniel Kleinman, Professor of Sociology and Associate Provost for Graduate Affairs, and Azer Bestavros, Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing. As described in the President’s spring letter, the Task Force submitted its report in March 2019.

The Task Force rightfully focused their recommendations on the two critical elements for Boston University: (1) hiring and retaining the faculty members across all the disciplines of the University who will lead the revolution in computing and data sciences, and (2) developing educational and research programs that will attract ambitious and academically accomplished students who will then be prepared to lead in the exciting and developing careers that will be the work of the future.

In subsequent meetings with the faculties of schools and colleges with large commitments to these fields and with the Faculty Council, we have heard their support for creating a new academic unit as envisioned by the Task Force. There also is a strong mandate that this unit be much more permeable for collaboration than a traditional school or college, while acknowledging that it will nonetheless have responsibilities for faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and academic programs that require substantial infrastructure.

Based on the recommendations of the Task Force and discussions with a broad range of academic leaders and faculty, we are writing to announce our intent to form a Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences (CDS) as the new interdisciplinary academic unit recommended by the Task Force. The goal is to create a novel, collaborative organizational structure within the University that serves as a constructive interface between our traditional academic units and faculty and students interested in computing and data sciences and in their applications.

The Faculty of CDS will be led by a newly appointed Associate Provost for Computing & Data Sciences, who will serve as a member of the Council of Deans. Located in the new Center for Computing & Data Sciences, the Faculty of CDS will be composed of members with full-time appointments and of faculty members with 50 percent appointments in CDS and 50 percent in a traditional school or college. We anticipate that the majority of the faculty in CDS will have these 50 percent joint appointments.

As the first steps toward creation of the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, the University Provost will solicit input into who should serve as the Associate Provost for Computing & Data Science. The Provost will also form committees to advise her on important administrative policies and strategic issues for the Faculty of CDS including:

  • Policies for hiring, promotion, and tenure review of faculty members jointly appointed between the Faculty of CDS and our schools and colleges
  • Organization of curricula within the Faculty of CDS and creation of subjects that are in support of undergraduate and graduate programs in our schools and colleges
  • Consideration of the opportunity to add other programs or capacities into the new academic unit

As recommended by the Task Force, the strategies for faculty hiring and academic programs supported by the Faculty of CDS will be developed in consultation with an Academic Advisory Council composed of academic leadership and faculty from the schools and colleges with the largest interfaces with the new unit. The Hariri Institute will continue to have a similar advisory group focused on setting the research priorities of the Institute.

The Director of the Hariri Institute will continue to report to the Vice President and Associate Provost for Research as a University-wide institute but will also work closely with the Associate Provost for Computing & Data Sciences. This structure both preserves the University-level engagement of the Institute and its highly innovative and interdisciplinary nature and enables close coordination with the new academic unit.

Our goal is to have accomplished much of the detailed planning for the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences in order to present this major organizational step to the Trustees for their formal approval at the September meeting. We have previously briefed the board on the work of the Task Force and our evolving thinking on this major step.

The creation of the Faculty of Computing & Data Science, together with the growing success of the Hariri Institute, and the construction of the Center for Computing & Data Sciences gives Boston University the ingredients to be a leader in the applications of computing and data science across the University and to educate generations of students with this competency. We also believe that the partnership with the Hariri Institute and other research initiatives, both across and within our schools and colleges, will enhance our impact in these important fields.

We want to thank the members of the Task Force for their work that has led to this decision and all of the faculty members who will participate in the work that will be needed to make the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences a reality.


Robert A. Brown signature
Robert A. Brown

Jean Morrison
Jean Morrison
University Provost and Chief Academic Officer