News  |  ,   |  January 11, 2019

University Data Science Programs Turn to Ethics and the Humanities

News article By Sydney Johnson. Published on EdSurge.


Data scientist Mark Madsen has been programming and crunching data long before buzzwords like artificial intelligence and machine learning were common. So when the field really started expanding around 2010, Madsen, who works near Portland, Ore., began receiving requests from local colleges and universities asking for tips about crafting their data-science curriculum.

Madsen and the institutions that reached out agreed that courses in mathematics, statistics and computing were crucial. But he says the conversations often fell off once he suggested adding subjects like history of science, philosophy or communication.

“Very few of them had any interest in interdisciplinary programs,” is how he remembers it. Madsen, who advises software companies these days, is still concerned by that attitude, and about how he sees it impacting industry practices—and society more broadly. “Formulating a product, you better know about ethics and understand legal frameworks.”

Madsen recently tweeted his frustration, spurring a conversation about ethics in data science curriculum, what’s missing, and where programs are already working to fill in the gap.

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