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Monday, September 22, 2014

Op-ed - The New Polytechnic: Preparing to Lead in the Digital Economy

A new way of working and learning is required for success in the data-driven future. 

Photo: Shirley Ann Jackson
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institut writes, "Think about what is going on right now, all around you. There are satellites above us collecting data on air movements, sensors below us collecting data on ground movements, and cameras all around us collecting data on our movements. Medical devices are measuring heartbeats, and communication devices are receiving and sending tweets, emails, text messages, and GPS signals."

Data is being generated by each of us, about each of us, and collected all around each of us. It is the new natural resource of the 21st century. As with all valuable resources, it is important how we generate it, how we mine it, how we manage it, how we preserve it, and how we connect it. 

 
This extraordinarily rapid expansion in the creation, availability, and interconnectivity of data from multiple sources, and the ever more powerful analytical and computational capacity that is generating new information from this deluge of data, is causing a significant transformation globally in the way we make discoveries, make decisions, make products, make connections and, ultimately, make progress. It is altering all aspects of curriculum and research at universities such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Rensselaer faculty and students use large-scale and collaborative visualization tools available at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center to better understand and analyze large data sets.

The ability to aggregate, integrate, validate, structure, and fully use the burgeoning mass of information available will define success in this data-driven future – including for universities.
 

A new way of working and learning is required – what I have called the “New Polytechnic” – collaborating across disciplines and sectors and regions to harness the power of these tools and technologies to address the key intersecting challenges and opportunities of our time: in energy security, health, food, water, and national security, as well as the linked challenges of climate change and allocation of scarce resources so critical to our future. 

In the “New Polytechnic,” universities must collaborate more effectively with businesses and governments to link the capabilities of advanced information technologies, communications, and networking – to the life sciences, and the physical, materials, environmental, social, cognitive, and computational sciences.
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Source: U.S. News & World Report  


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