By: Louisa Gaylord

Ruha Benjamin ADSA annual meeting

Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Founding Director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab at Princeton University, was the keynote speaker at the 2020 ADSA annual meeting.

The Academic Data Science Alliance (ADSA) hosted their annual meeting from October 14th through 16th, which brought together data science methodologists and domain researchers from all disciplines and career stages to share breakthroughs and new approaches in data science research and education, with a strong emphasis on responsible data science. The virtual conference was composed of research updates, breakout groups, panels, demos and lightning talks to promote brainstorming for innovation, collaborative feedback and engaging discussions. Several members of the eScience Institute participated in the meeting, including Senior Data Science Fellow Anthony Arendt who led a breakout session on “Successes and Challenges of Hosting Remote Unconferences.” Senior Data Science Fellow Jose Manuel Magallanes presented a lightning talk on “Challenges of Data Science in time of political crisis in developing countries” and UW Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow Sarah Dreier gave a research update about “Troubles in/with Text: Fine Tuning NLP to Analyze Declassified Rationalizations of Rights Violations.”

The meeting featured keynote speaker Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Founding Director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab at Princeton University, and her presentation titled “2020 Vision: Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology & Society.” Her talk explored a range of discriminatory designs that encode racial inequity — what she calls the “New Jim Code” and discusses in her 2019 book Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Benjamin talked about the entanglements of biased bots and altruistic algorithms, and shared conceptual tools to decode tech promises with historical and sociological insight. She introduced the current work of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab where researchers track, synthesize and situate data on the racial dimensions of the coronavirus pandemic within historical and sociological frameworks, and partner with community organizations to address ongoing racial inequities.

Over 300 people participated in the virtual event from all over the world. The meeting was sponsored in part by the eScience Institute, as well as the National Science Foundation, the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, the NYU Center for Data Science, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Next year’s annual meeting will be held November 10th through 12th, 2021 in Savannah, Georgia.