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DART Research Project Sets Arkansas Apart

 May 18, 2021

July 1, 2020 marked the first day of a five-year statewide collaborative research project, ‘Data Analytics that are Robust and Trusted: From Smart Curation to Socially Aware Decision Making’ (DART). This project will investigate key aspects of three barriers to practical application and acceptance of modern data analytics. Those three barriers are the management of big data, the security or privacy of big data, and interpretability of the models used to understand big data.

This project was funded by the National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR) at $20M and included a $4M cash match from the State. The goal of the NSF EPSCoR program is to build research infrastructure and competitiveness among states that receive a small overall percentage of NSF grants. EPSCoR was created in 1979 at NSF and expanded over the following years to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Arkansas has successfully competed for NSF EPSCoR Track-1 grants for decades. These grants have purchased major equipment and instruments (like a 3d printer that prints at nanoscale), dramatically improved the state’s cyberinfrastructure, and supported hundreds of scientific researchers who in turn have published hundreds of scientific papers and secured millions more in research funding. It’s got a pretty fantastic return on investment.

DART will address the looming gap in the number of data science jobs and data science-skilled workers in the country. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Research Science as a career field is projected to grow 15% through 2029. Data scientist is one of the fastest growing careers in the country, projected to grow 31% by 2029. Companies of all sizes and in all sectors are looking to big data to solve a variety of problems, and DART is in position to help.

This project is several years in the making, and has brought together more than 50 researchers and dozens of undergraduate and graduate students on more than 15 college campuses around the state. Participants are organized into six broad areas of expertise: data curation and life cycle analysis, socially aware analytics, social media and networks, learning and prediction, data science education, and research and development cyberinfrastructure.

DART, as a center, is integrating data science research across the State and creating a deep and diverse data-ready workforce, which will pay immediate dividends in the form of increased federal grant funding and increased industrial research funding. As the State better aligns its investments with industry strengths, more opportunities to improve the quality of life in Arkansas and steadily increase educational attainment and wages will develop. Each thematic research area contributes in complementary ways to this mission.

We have set a number of goals and objectives for the project, and we look forward to sharing the progress with the public and with our peers and colleagues. We host a number of workshops, professional development opportunities, seminars, and other events throughout the year. Stay tuned to this blog and our social media channels @arepscor for updates.

     Blog post contributed by:

     Jennifer Fowler
     Program Director
     Arkansas NSF EPSCoR
     Arkansas Economic Development Commission