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This year’s Data Week in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, is largely devoted to ethics and socially responsible data science. The Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS) is making a unique contribution to this through a range of exhibitions and activities for the public. Children have not been overlooked. There are special lectures on robots and data for primary school pupils in Den Bosch. Liesbeth Leijssen, Director Impact at JADS: “Actually, society is crying out for closer collaboration with universities.”

Data and digitalization are playing an increasingly important role in society. Data science and data applications will be the key focus during the Dutch Data Week. Various speakers and organizations, including JADS’ partners, will present live talks about the impact that digital technologies are having on their businesses. Scientists will talk about entrepreneurship, crime, health, and energy during the Data Week.

In Leijssen’s view, everyone should be drawn into the discussion about data science and ethics. “There are a lot of myths about data science. Sometimes people are afraid of what is to come. It is therefore vital to depict a realistic picture of data sciences, to show how meaningful they can be in people’s day-to-day lives and to make ethical questions about data a subject of discussion.”

Children will also join in discussions. In part on behalf of JADS, lectures on robots and artificial intelligence are streamed to all primary schools in Den Bosch. Children are thereby challenged to brainstorm on how robots are going to change the world and how people will need to respond to that.

Students and companies join forces

JADS – a young university offering a multitude of educational programs – is a collaboration between Tilburg University and the Eindhoven University of Technology. The Province of Brabant and the municipality of Den Bosch are also the so-called ‘founding fathers’. The universities are joining forces and complement each other extremely well. Whereas Tilburg University focuses more on behavioral science, economics, law, and ethics, Eindhoven University of Technology focuses more on the ‘hard side’ of data science.

The study programs revolve around data science and entrepreneurship. Students work on future-oriented solutions to economic and social issues. The educational curriculum combines different aspects of courses, such as entrepreneurship and statistics.

Students solve business-related issues within the various courses or internships for a year at an established company or organization. “This is, of course, a great opportunity for companies to attract young and highly educated talent,” Leijssen adds. There is also a playground for students at JADS. Also, start-ups have based data-driven companies on the campus. “We’re standing with one foot in education, and the other foot in society.”

The changing role of universities

JADS caters to the need to share important knowledge with society. The role of universities in society is constantly evolving over time. In the late Middle Ages, universities acted as drivers of social and cultural development. Over the course of time, that role has become more slightly more introspective here and there.

Society is undergoing a digital transition, Leijssen notes. New developments are unfolding at a furious pace. “In fact, society is crying out for closer collaboration with universities. These changes are happening so fast that companies, organizations, and citizens can barely keep up.”

Leijssen believes that the municipality of Den Bosch and the province of North Brabant are in this respect a stimulus for a ‘university’ that is focused on practical applications. Traditionally, governments have been responsible for both physical space and the public participaton. Now digital space is being added to that. “Wherever companies, government, and universities work together in Brabant, an economic accelerator is created, at a regional and national level and even more so on a European level,” Leijssen contends.

‘Big or small: we all make an impact

Companies and organizations are still knocking on JADS’s door every week for prospective collaborations. Sometimes it’s a start-up, other times it’s a large company. “But I cannot choose which collaboration I am most enthusiastic about,” says Leijssen. “I like a small-scale student start-up that has developed a search engine and eventually takes off into society just as much as a partnership aimed at investigating the role of data sciences in deforestation or subversive crime. Big or small: we all make an impact.”

Would you like to know more about initiatives or companies in the Brabant region? Then check out the Brabant Brand Box.