‘Community of Enthusiasts’: Pitt’s Year of Data and Society set for Spring

As a political scientist and economist, Brennan Conway said he was excited about an upcoming virtual year of data and society. an event on January 28 census data.

“As a poli-sci, I find redistribution and gerrymandering fascinating, so I am excited about an upcoming event on how census data is used in the redistribution of congressional seats,” Conway, member of the ‘Year of the data and the company committee, said.

Conway, a senior, also said the data isn’t just for STEM-related fields, but “all fields of study.”

“As data and data science become more and more integral to our academic community and the world at large, there has never been a better time to take a step back and think about how we can use these incredible tools to create a positive and lasting social impact, ”said Conway.

the Marshal’s office identifies Pitt’s “The year of” theme for the upcoming school year at the end of each school year. Marshal Ann Cudd announcement last April that the 2021-22 academic year would be the Data and company year, and after a semester of activities, other initiatives are planned for the spring semester.

Mattern, chair of the Year of Data and Society steering committee – which helps plan events related to this year’s theme – said the Year of Data and Society initiative hosts events that explore socially responsible data practices and the societal implications of data and its uses.

In Cudd’s April announcement, she said the Year of Data and Society would build on the work of the university’s Data Science Task Force, which released a report with recommendations on how to advance data science at Pitt, such as a focus on ethics and social impact and accountability in the use of data.

According to Sera Linardi – who was part of DTSF and now on the Year of Data and Society steering committee – the task force recommended creating a community to address the role of data in certain issues.

“One of the main recommendations of the DTSF was to create a community of enthusiasts – a transdisciplinary community of students, faculty and staff inside and outside Pitt who are passionate about an issue and the role of data in solving this problem. “Linardi, Associate Professor at Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, noted.

Linardi said she started on From grief to action initiative in the summer of 2020, which is a community with over 170 volunteers who focus on racial justice issues.

According to Linardi, the Grief to Action initiative launched two platforms this year. The first was 412Connect, a scavenger hunt for black-owned businesses, The Year of Data and Society Kickoff Event September 8. The group presented the second platform, a website which helps navigate the more than 100 police departments in Allegheny County, in a Conference on the Year of Data and Society November 19.

“The Year of Data and Society theme was a great fit for us to tell a story about how it is possible to nurture a diverse community in Pitt to create digital tools to take practical action that has a direct impact. about race and social justice in our own neighborhood, ”Linardi said.

Mattern, also assistant professor at the Computer Science and Information School and the school principal Sara Fine Institute, said the initiative shed light on the Pitt projects and hosted external speakers last fall with hybrid and virtual modalities.

An event hosted Catherine D’Iganzio, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to speak on his book Data feminism – of which she is a co-author – which explores the biases in the data technologies used on a daily basis. Jonathan Schwabish and Alice Feng, other external fall speakers, also present on how to take a more focused approach to diversity, equity and inclusion in data visualization.

According to Mattern, in the spring semester, the Year of Data and Society steering committee will continue to host events that explore the societal impacts of data and its uses. For example, the an event on census data later this month examines how the data is used to decide the boundaries of legislative constituencies.

Lisa Parker, who sits on the Year of Data and Society’s steering committee and credits committee, said she was excited about upcoming projects that create discussions about ethical and social considerations of the data science.

Laura Levitt of Temple University will present a conference on January 24, discussing art as an opening that allows one to consider the lingering effects of trauma and loss, sickness and carriage. In addition, Emily Maloney will give a reading from his book on February 16, Cost of life, where she describes how personal experiences can provide data for broader social concerns.

“I’m excited about these things with Laura Levitt and Emily Maloney,” Parker said. “They conceptualize data in a way we don’t often think about. “

Mattern said the Year of Data and Society initiative also has a possibility of financing which supports projects and events led by Pitt faculty, students and staff that are related to the theme.

In the fall semester, funding helped fund events such as a Latinx Data Panel, which was part of Latinx Connect 2021 conference. This data panel explored the complexities of the Latinx data and community, challenges regarding the inequitable representation of Latinx data, among other topics.

Mattern said the Steering Committee looks forward to the events of the funding opportunity recipients over the next semester.

“For example, a team is running workshops on learning analytics, with the goal of better understanding the data collected through platforms such as Canvas and how that data can be used responsibly,” said Mattern.

The Steering Committee will host an end of semester celebration which will include a panel of funding opportunity winners discussing the sustainability of their projects. Linardi said she thinks it will be an important conversation because one of the biggest data challenges for social welfare initiatives is sustainability.

“I really look forward to having a conversation about the potential good these projects could create, the challenges of doing so, how the grant is helping, and the issue of sustainability on a larger scale in the future beyond lifetime of the grant, ”Linardi said.

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