An innovative interactive online textbook for economics and data science is the latest tool to advance research, teaching, and learning, at the University of British Columbia.
The open source, interactive web and Cloud-based textbook is believed to be the first of its kind for economics and data science. It is partially funded by the Centre for Innovative Data in Economics Research (CIDER), based out of the Vancouver School of Economics at UBC.
“The creation and launch of this interactive textbook puts UBC and the Vancouver School of Economics (VSE) at the forefront of this field,” said Prof. Kevin Milligan, the director of CIDER. “We are transforming the way economics students can learn practical programming skills and apply them in their future studies and careers.”
UBC students enrolled in ECON 323 (Quantitative Economic Modelling with Data Science Applications) will be the first group of students to use the interactive textbook as part of their coursework, starting this month. The textbook is a series of lectures that combines computer programming with data science and scientific computing, and applies these topics across a variety of economic applications.
The interactive component allows for experiential learning, giving students the ability to simulate economic models and alter, change, and create computer code in the Python language.
“Rather than learning about machine learning and macroeconomics in isolation, students can jointly explore the data and theory of economic recessions, and interactively forecast recessions using machine learning techniques,” said VSE Prof. Jesse Perla, who will co-teach the course alongside Prof. Paul Schrimpf and Peifan Wu, a postdoctoral fellow at the VSE.
The UBC course is considered a pilot project to demonstrate the interactive textbook’s use in teaching economics through data science at the university level. The creators hope other post-secondary institutions will follow UBC’s lead and incorporate the textbook in their academic programming.
CIDER developed the textbook with help from QuantEcon, a non-profit organization, and Valorum Data, an economics and big data company. The textbook’s Jupyter-based interactive features were made possible with the use of the scientific computing and data science platforms from from The Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), a distributed research institute headquartered at UBC.
The interactive textbook is available for students and non-students alike, accessible throughout the world on datascience.quantecon.org
About the Centre for Innovative Data in Economics Research (CIDER) at UBC
The Centre for Innovative Data in Economics Research at the University of British Columbia operates state-of-the-art facilities for data-intensive research, and collaborates with world-leading researchers and institutions through conferences, workshops, exchanges, and visits. CIDER creates new and unique opportunities for multidisciplinary research in emerging areas related to the innovative use of data and provides funding, grants, and training to UBC faculty and graduate students working with innovative data at the Vancouver School of Economics and the UBC Sauder School of Business. CIDER was launched in 2017 in conjunction with the appointment of Prof. Erik Snowberg as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Data-Intensive Methods in Economics, funded by the Government of Canada.
QuantEcon is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving economic modeling by enhancing computational tools for economists. Development is centered on open source scientific computing environments such as Python, R and Julia. QuantEcon is a NumFocus Fiscally Sponsored Project, currently funded primarily by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
About the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS)
Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences is a distributed research institute headquartered at UBC that serves ten universities in Canada and the USA. The PIMS mandate is to promote excellent research and applications of the mathematical sciences, to facilitate the training of highly qualified personnel, to enrich public awareness of and education in mathematics and to create partnerships with similar organizations around the world.