Design thinking and the future of informatics

Archive Boxes

By Claudia Neuhauser

Back in the days when index cards and laboratory notebooks were the primary places to record data, data acquisition was much more deliberate and slow. Hours in the library or at the bench yielded small data sets that became immensely valuable to the researcher who acquired them. Decisions about what to keep or discard were made at the time of acquisition.

Today, high throughput technologies, sensors, digitization of large collections of literary and artistic works have made data “big.” Inexpensive data storage solutions no longer require careful considerations of what to keep and what to discard. Data are no longer solely collected to address a specific hypothesis but are increasingly reused and integrated to explore new hypotheses. Novel analysis and visualization tools open new paths of inquiry.

To respond to the needs emerging from this data-rich environment and to increase informatics capabilities, OVPR established the University of Minnesota Informatics Institute (UMII) in 2014. UMII’s mission is to foster and accelerate data-intensive research across the university system in fields as diverse as agriculture, arts, design, engineering, environment, health, humanities and social sciences. Throughout the past year, UMII has built up capacity in data analysis, established a number of competitive grants programs, and brought people together within the university and with outside organization. UMII was also involved in writing a new policy on research data management that clarifies responsibilities around all aspects of data management across the university. Highlights of the policy can be found here.

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