Tandon Professor is First Female Chair of Database


Via nyu.edu

Tandon Professor Juliana Freire is the first woman to be elected as chair of ACM’s SIGMOD in its 42-year history.

By Chia Chen Lee, Contributing Writer

Juliana Freire, a professor at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and NYU Center for Data Science, was elected this year as the first female chair of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Management of Data. Freire is the first woman to be elected as chair of ACM’s SIGMOD in its 42-year history. Her term officially started on July 1.

“I was honored to be nominated to the position and even more so to have been elected by the members of the community,” Freire said.

Established in 1975, ACM’s SIGMOD is concerned with the principles, techniques and applications of database management systems and data management technology. Members of SIGMOD include software developers, academic and industrial researchers, practitioners, users and students. SIGMOD also sponsors the annual SIGMOD and Principles of Database Systems conference, which is one of the most important and selective conferences in the field.

Fatma Ozcan, secretary and treasurer of SIGMOD, as well as a research staff member and manager at IBM Almaden Research Center, also explained SIGMOD’s role in the field of data science.

“SIGMOD has made significant contributions to the information management research community over the years and has been a beacon of progress for many decades,” Ozcan said. “Relational databases and data mining were both pioneered in this community.”

As the SIGMOD Chair, Freire is responsible for managing the groups’ activities as well as setting new directions for the field of database research.

“One of my goals is to increase the adoption of transparency and reproducibility best-practices for database research,” Freire said. “This has the potential to improve the quality of our research output by enabling others to build upon our results, magnify our impact and speed up new developments.”

The ACM’s SIGMOD conference has also been a pioneer in creating technology for reproducibility. The group has been a model for other ACM and non-ACM conferences. Freire and her team hope to continue to lead this agenda in the future.

“Another goal I have is to better articulate the importance of data management to the general public,” Freire said.

The technology developed by the database community has made the big data revolution possible, but when new major big data or data science developments are publicized, the data management component is minimized or omitted.

“We need to make sure that database research is recognized as a vital component of data-intensive science and computing,” Freire said. “This may mean special tracks in conferences that illustrate these contributions through case studies, promoting collaborations with disciplines within and beyond computer science that engage in data-intensive research, and journalistic outreach to show how the technologies we develop have an ongoing impact on data science at scale.”

“I think it is important to increase the participation of all interested parties, both academicians and practitioners, as well as bring more transparency and creating a democratic environment as we continuously transform our research focus and increase our scope and interests,” Ozcan said.

Both Freire and Ozcan had expressed personal expectations of their new roles as part of the SIGMOD leadership.

“In general, women in leadership positions can serve as role models for young people,” Freire said. “Hopefully, I can be a positive role model.”

Freire is also the Executive Director of the Moore-Sloan Data Science Environment, a five-year $37.8 million cross-institutional grant that is housed at CDS.

Ozcan said she is very proud of the community for choosing a woman present while also promoting and embracing diversity in all aspects, not just gender.

“I would like the SIGMOD community to play a leadership role as we embark on the new era of more intelligent systems,” Ozcan said. “After all, data is at the center of all decision making.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 16 print edition. Email Chia Chen Lee at [email protected]