Sustainable Data Science Training Program awarded $1.65 M from NSERC CREATE

Published: 16 May 2024

Today, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced more than $26 million in funding for 16 new training initiatives through its Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program.

McGill’s Professor Bettina Kemme of the Department of Computer Science has received $1.65 million from NSERC CREATE for the Sustainable Data Systems for Data Science (SDSDS) program, to be distributed over six years. The funds will be used to train teams of highly qualified students and postdoctoral fellows, preparing them with the professional and technical skills for their future careers in academia, industry, or government. Several Canadian and international academic and industry partners are collaborators on the McGill-led program.

“Investments such as the NSERC CREATE grant announced today for McGill’s Sustainable Data Systems for Data Science program, will accelerate transformative research, bridge the gap between machine learning and sustainability sciences, and train an up-and-coming generation of academics and industry leaders to work together toward a carbon-neutral society,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). “I extend my congratulations to McGill Professor Bettina Kemme and my thanks to the many collaborating academic and industry partners.”

“Green Data” for a Computing and Data-Hungry World:

Canada has invested significantly into Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and in Machine Learning (ML), the AI subfield responsible for chatbots and predictive text, the curation of social media feeds, and deep learning—where layers of algorithms and computing units are formed into artificial neural networks—, a ML technique that relies on large amounts of data and is computing intensive.

"While there is significant interest in exploring the application of ML techniques in industry settings, and to assessing the social, societal, and ethical implications of AI and ML, little attention is spared for the impact of data-hungry and computing intensive techniques and technologies on Canada’s sustainability goals," says Professor Kemme.

With this NSERC CREATE grant, Kemme will lead the Sustainable Data Systems for Data Science (SDSDS) program, which will train a new generation of highly skilled computer scientists in AI and ML techniques, while involving them in sustainability sciences.

Among the planned activities of this unique program is a seminar on sustainability concepts, and an interdisciplinary course on sustainable data science, as well as a summer school that explores the cutting-edge advances enabling software platforms to become more energy efficient. The program will also teach students to develop training strategies for the IT workforce and students will gain awareness of the practical challenges and opportunities of implementing sustainable ML advances through internships and applied research projects with industry partners.

“Machine Learning techniques are becoming increasingly compute and data-hungry, and there is very little awareness, in academia and among industry leaders, about the environmental impact of data and computing intensive platforms,” she says. “Therefore, the technical workforce needs to know so much more than the ML algorithms themselves: future data engineers need to think green and holistic to develop the energy-efficient data analytics platforms of tomorrow.”

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