WDCC: booster of data science on the campus

Published on
May 4, 2022

Data science is hot, but what exactly can you do with it as a practitioner, researcher or teacher? A good first step: talk to the Wageningen Data Competence Centre. Their mission: raise data science and artificial intelligence utilization to a high level everywhere on Wageningen Campus.

Intelligent systems that use real-time data to tell farmers exactly which crops to irrigate and when. Smart sensors that measure the quality of food. Or better applicable research data by standardising it. Three random examples from a long list of applications that illustrate the importance of data science and artificial intelligence (AI) for the Wageningen knowledge domain. The WDCC is a driving force behind everything relating to this at Wageningen Campus. This compact, multidisciplinary team stimulates its application in research and education and helps to ensure that research results have maximum impact. Furthermore, it forges alliances between parties both within and outside Wageningen Campus and ensures that the data management and data infrastructure on campus are in order.

Covering the entire campus

Ricardo da Silva Torres is one of the three professors associated with the WDCC. Their role is slightly different from that of other professors in Wageningen, he explains: "Usually a professor is associated with one chair group. We do not belong to one group but cover the entire campus. For example, I am currently associated with the Farm Technology chair group, but I am also developing activities around data science and AI with other chair and research groups." According to the professor, there are unprecedented opportunities to integrate data science into Wageningen's knowledge domains. "We want to raise its application in all domains to a higher level, so that scientists can use it for new discoveries. But we are also working the other way around: we see that experts have all sorts of questions that can be answered much faster and better with data science and AI. For example, machine learning can significantly improve the predictive value of scientific models. This applies, for example, to dynamic systems such as forests that are changing into savannahs due to climate change. " Data science is also advancing in education, the professor notes. A master's degree in Data Science for Food and Health will start after the summer and there are also courses for professionals. An example is the course AI and biodiversity, which will start after the summer.

Bridge between two worlds

The strength of Wageningen's data science lies in the combination with the specific knowledge of the various domains, emphasises Yannick van Gelder, coordinator Value Creation of the WDCC: "We want to build a bridge between the two worlds. I notice that data science is being increasingly integrated into scientific research. Data science is going to change the relationship between science and society drastically, predicts Van Gelder: "For example, instead of citizens reading an article with the most important findings of research, they will have access to an interactive dashboard or application on which they can use data for their own personalised information needs. In addition, data science makes it easier to transfer applicable knowledge from research to organisations and adapt research outcomes based on real-time data."

From large research institution to small startup: every campus resident benefits from data science and AI, he believes. "Whatever you're into, we'd love to talk to you about how data can work for your organisation. Feel free to knock on our door; we are located in Forum, behind the library. Digitally you can knock on"