New approaches to scientific research capture the power of data science to leverage the scope and volume of data in the natural sciences.

To take advantage of this, the Moore Foundation created the Data-Driven Discovery Initiative six years ago, ahead of the explosive growth in data-driven research seen today. There were many lessons along the way, including the value of investing in tools and software for the future of data-driven research. 

The foundation will extend its investment in data-driven research through 2021, making an additional $20 million in grants that concentrate on developing data science tools for the natural sciences. Through our Data-Driven Discovery Initiative, we have supported people who create new ways to apply data science to the natural sciences, producing both data-driven discoveries and new methods of scientific research. During this final extension of the initiative, we will build on these efforts and focus on tools that have broad impact in the life and physical sciences.

“Our hope is to see data science become integrated into research and to gain broader use in the natural sciences,” said Chris Mentzel, program director of the initiative. “Today, partly through our efforts, this is becoming a reality. Data science has much greater recognition and far broader use in natural sciences across the country.”

The first phase of our initiative focused on supporting people and institutions to drive innovation in data-driven discovery. Grantees have created tools and practices to mine large, complex scientific data sets that reveal hidden breakthroughs. Examples include Jupyter Notebooks, Julia computing language and NumPy, our partnership with the Sloan Foundation on three Data Science Environments, and our 14 data-science investigators. Through the impressive work of our grantees and partners, we learned that accelerating scientific discovery is accomplished very effectively through investment in software tools – where we will concentrate our investments in the final three years of the initiative.

Remarking on the Science Program and its work in data-driven discovery, Chief Program Officer Robert Kirshner said, “We seek important problems where the foundation can make a real difference to progress in science. Helping scientists make discoveries by giving them the tools they need to grapple with today’s tsunami of data is a natural fit for our program.”


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