eScience Institute's Data Science for Social Good Fellows

On Thursday, August 20th, the four project teams for eScience's Data Science for Social Good summer program gathered one last time to make their final presentations in front of a room filled to capacity with distinguished guests. The culmination of ten weeks work now boiled down to thirty-minute presentations, and the recently-christened Data Science for Social Good Fellows were eager to report on the merits of their respective projects.

Modeled after programs at Georgia Tech and the University of Chicago, an initial applicant pool of 144 students was narrowed down to sixteen graduate and undergraduate DSSG Fellows, split among four projects whose focus was solving 21st Century urban challenges using data science. Each team was joined by a project lead and an eScience Data Scientist, along with students from Alliances for Learning and Vision for Underrepresented Americans (ALVA), a University of Washington program that targets underrepresented students in a variety of disciplines for summer internships. 

The University of Washington eScience Institute announces a competition for the 2016 Moore/Sloan Data Science and Washington Research Foundation Innovation in Data Science Postdoctoral Fellowships. We seek outstanding interdisciplinary researchers with expertise in the methods of data science and in a physical, life, or social science.

The program recognizes that rapid advances in our ability to acquire and generate data are transforming all fields of discovery from "data-poor" to "data-rich." A significant bottleneck to discovery is our ability to perform inference over heterogeneous, noisy, and often massive datasets.

There are two funding pathways for Data Science postdoctoral fellowships:

  1. Most of our postdoctoral fellows are funded jointly by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Washington Research Foundation.

  2. There is also the possibility of co-funding between two WRF-funded institutes. Candidates interested in joint WRF appointments should complete the full application process for both institutes. In addition, the applicant should include a paragraph that clearly indicates the rationale and fit of a joint appointment.

Authors: Fabliha Ibnat (UW eScience Institute DSSG intern), Chris Suberlak (UW eScience Institute DSSG intern), Jason Portenoy (UW eScience Institute DSSG intern), Joan Wang (UW eScience Institute DSSG intern), Xitlalit Sanchez (UW ALVA student intern), Cameron Holt (UW ALVA student intern), Neil Roche (BMGF, Data Scientist), Anjana Sundaram (BMGF, Data Officer), Bryna Hazelton (UW eScience Institute Research Scientist), Ariel Rokem (UW eScience Institute Data Scientist).

We are living in an age where data plays a role in almost everything we do. While the power of big data is already being harnessed in science and technology, the question remains how to bring the same disruptive impact to public policy and social good. Companies like Microsoft, Google and Facebook are using massive amounts of user data to create products that engage and entertain users (and to find the most effective advertisement to display to them). In a variety of scientific fields, new measurement devices are producing larger and larger quantities of data about everything from remote galaxies to our own DNA, accelerating our progress towards a better understanding of the universe. Some have even gone so far as to say that data is "unreasonably effective." But how does one use data to promote social good? How does one harness the lessons learned in analyzing data from the internet, or data from scientific measurements, to address a social problem as challenging and complex as family homelessness?

This summer, the University of Washington's eScience Institute is hosting the first installment of a Data Science For Social Good program to address this question. Based on programs at the University of Chicago and at Georgia Tech, the goal of this 10-week summer program is to identify organizations devoted to social good and to use data science to increase each organization's reach and impact: teams of student interns and data scientists are applying advanced data science techniques to questions pertaining to social good. During the 10 weeks of the program, the student interns receive instruction in programming and other data science methods through a variety of hands-on tutorials and lectures, while spending long days crunching data in the eScience Data Science Studio on the 6th floor of the Physics/Astronomy tower on the UW campus.

Data Science Workshop 2015, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, will be held at the University of Washington on August 5-7. The workshop will bring together 100 graduate students from across the nation, representing diverse science and engineering domains, to interact with data scientists from industry and academia.

David Beck, the UW eScience Institute’s Director of Research for the Life Sciences, chairs the Organizing Committee. Program partners include the UW eScience Institute (CSE’s Ed Lazowska is the Director, and CSE’s Bill Howe is the Associate Director), the UW Data Science IGERT (interdisciplinary graduate education) program (CSE’s Magda Balazinska is the Director), and UW Computer Science & Engineering, Astronomy, Chemical Engineering, and Oceanography. The program includes a keynote by UW CSE’s Oren Etzioni, panel participation by UW CSE’s Magda Balazinska, and Joe Hellerstein, and mentor participation by UW CSE’s Alvin Cheung.

Check out the UW News press release here. Learn more here.

The First International Workshop on Smart Cities and Urban Analytics (UrbanGIS 2015), in conjunction with ACM SIGSPATIAL 2015, has announced a call for papers ahead of its November 3, 2015, workshop in Seattle, WA.


About half of humanity lives in urban environments today and that number will grow to 80% by the middle of this century; North America is already 80% in cities, and will rise to 90% by 2050. Cities are thus the loci of resource consumption, of economic activity, and of innovation; they are the cause of our looming sustainability problems but also where those problems must be solved. Smart cities are leveraging advanced analytics solutions, usually with spatio-temporal data, to support urban management and more informed decision making. Big urban data, if properly acquired, integrated, and analyzed, can take us beyond today's imperfect and often anecdotal understanding of cities to enable better operations, informed planning, and improved policy.

Despite many efforts in tackling challenges of smart cities through big data and spatio(­-temporal) analysis, there is no standard spatio(­-temporal) data infrastructure able to support the wide range of requirements in different problem areas. This workshop will provide a forum for researchers from various domains to present their results and to work together toward developing such an infrastructure. This includes, but not limited to, techniques, policies, and standards required to acquire, process, and use spatio(-temporal) data, particularly in the urban context.