Addendum to the previous post: if the goal — surely a worthwhile one — is to promote NSF-DMS funding for data sciences, why not change the name to Division of Mathematical and Data Sciences? My experience at the very interesting “High-dimensional phenomena” workshop at IMA was that good work in this area is being done not only by self-described statisticians, but by mathematicians, computer scientists, and electrical engineers; it seems reasonable to use a name that doesn’t suggest the field is the property of a single academic department.

Also, a colleague points out to me that DMSS would inevitably pronounced “Dumbass.” So there’s that.

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I’m partly playing devil’s advocate here, but it is clear that the goal of promoting DMS funding for data sciences is a worthy one? DMS should certainly fund mathematical work on this topic, but my impression is that high-level mathematics is generally not the crucial bottleneck in big data; math plays an important role, but I really don’t see this as a “let’s rename our division to emphasize what a huge contribution we can make” moment. The renaming could help put more money under the control of mathematicians, but it’s not clear to me that that would be a net improvement for the world as a whole.

I actually wonder whether the renaming could lead to an effective decrease in DMS funding in the long run. I think we’re seeing a big data bubble, in which the nerdier business leaders and politicians are developing unrealistic expectations for the miracles large-scale data analysis might lead to. Not that it isn’t great, but the expectations are becoming even greater. This leads to a real opportunity: if we double DMS’s scope, we might get 225% of the funding, and then a little could spill over to the rest of mathematics. However, I don’t think the bubble will last forever, and it might settle down to 175% of the funding asymptotically, once people move on to the next big thing. At that point, it would be politically infeasible to say “Forget data science! We’d like to return to just our old mission, with 100% of our old funding.”

Kudos to your colleague for spotting the poorly focus-grouped acronym!