MIT Launches Institute for Data, Systems, and Society

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Institute for Data, Systems, and Society

Munther Dahleh

Photo: IDSS Director Munther Dahleh. Photo by Lillie Paquette.


The complex, interconnected systems that shape our daily lives incorporate both technological and human elements. With more and more data becoming available, researchers are now able to observe and understand these systems in unprecedented ways. The challenge lies in determining how best to interpret and apply the data with innovative approaches that can help us model and predict when and why systems might fail, make improvements, and create better systems in the future.

On July 1, 2015, MIT officially launched the new Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. IDSS uses tools and methodologies in statistics, information and decision systems, and social sciences to address challenges and opportunities in complex systems. IDSS research encompasses a variety of domains, including finance, social networks, urbanization, energy systems, and health analytics. “IDSS is creating a new paradigm—bringing together engineering and social sciences,” says IDSS director Munther Dahleh, William A. Coolidge Professor in EECS. “We are focused on addressing major societal challenges using rigorous data analytics approaches.”

Spanning all five MIT schools, IDSS is supporting and developing a range of cross-disciplinary academic programs advancing its mission. In Fall 2016, IDSS will welcome its first cohort in the Doctoral Program in Social and Engineering Systems. IDSS also hosts the Technology and Policy Program (TPP), which has offered the Master of Science in Technology and Policy at MIT since 1976, and prepares students for leadership in government and industry. Emphasizing the need to analyze data in order to make informed decisions, IDSS is also working to offer academic programs in statistics to MIT’s undergraduate and graduate students. In May 2015, IDSS hosted a two-day symposium, “21st-Century Statistics at MIT” (statsconf.mit.edu).

The formation of IDSS creates a larger set of MIT alumni that includes people from information and decision sciences, statistics, engineering systems, and policy. IDSS alumni will belong to a broader and deeper community whose benefits include an ever-richer world of resources and connections for faculty, students, researchers, and alumni, resulting in expanding IDSS’s reach and inviting new areas for collaboration.

IDSS’s rigorous computational and analytical approaches for analysis and design of complex systems are anchored in research developed at the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS), forming the research backbone of this new institute. The longest running research lab at MIT, LIDS is a global leader in advancing information and decision sciences. Its research cuts across core engineering disciplines building foundational knowledge for research and applications across many different domains and application areas.

LIDS director and EECS professor Asuman Ozdaglar is associate director of IDSS, as is Professor Ali Jadbabaie, a visiting professor from the University of Pennsylvania who is also interim director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center.

A new undergraduate minor in statistics and data science will launch in fall 2016. More information about IDSS and its mission, people, research, and academic programs can be found at idss.mit.edu.