DSSG 2021 Project Proposal Submission Information

Program Overview

The UW eScience Institute has now closed applications for the seventh offering of the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) summer program, which will be run remotely from June 14 to August 20.

This is an opportunity to work closely with data science professionals and students to make better use of data. The Data Science for Social Good summer program at the University of Washington eScience Institute brings together data scientists and domain researchers to work on focused, collaborative projects for societal benefit. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 program will be conducted remotely.

We invite short proposals for 10-week data-intensive research projects requiring collaboration in data science approaches, such as scalable data management, statistical analysis, machine learning, open source software development, cloud and cluster computing, and/or data visualization. The program supports compelling, timely, publicly-relevant projects that are poised to take advantage of tremendous student and professional technical talent and computation resources. If you have an idea for a project that could benefit from access to a team of talented and motivated students, exposure to new data-intensive methods, and guidance in best practices for software development, reproducible science, and human-centered design, then we would love to hear from you.  

We seek proposals that are methodologically rigorous and designed to address societal challenges in areas such as human services, public policy, health and safety, environmental impacts, transportation, accessibility, social justice, and urban informatics. We welcome proposals submitted by academic researchers, public agencies, non-profit entities, and industry.

Accepted proposals will need to designate a Project Lead (usually the author(s) of the proposal) who will closely collaborate with one or more Data Scientists from the eScience Institute and an interdisciplinary team of 4-5 student fellows supported by eScience (see Project Team Composition and Time Commitment below).

This program, which has been running since the summer of 2015, was inspired by similar endeavors such as the Data Science for Social Good program originally at the University of Chicago (now at CMU).

In reviewing the proposals, we will be looking for projects with well-defined deliverables that clearly articulate how the DSSG program can help advance your project. Projects from our previous DSSG programs may serve as useful inspiration. Click for summaries of projects from the 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 DSSG summer programs.

This program is sponsored in part by an award from the Micron Foundation.

Important Dates for DSSG 2021

Monday, January 4, 2021: Proposal submission form opens.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021 10:00 – 11:00 am: Information Session via a Zoom webinar. The slides are available here

Monday, February 22, 2021 Midnight PT: Deadline for submitting project proposals

Monday, March 2, 2021: Project proposal short-list notification

March – June 2021: Project scoping meetings with data scientists (2-3 meetings)

Monday, June 14  – Friday, Aug 20, 2021: DSSG Program

Project Team Composition

DSSG projects will be executed by a team consisting of one or two external Project Leads (typically the authors of the proposal), one or more Data Scientists from the eScience Institute, and four or five students (graduate and advanced undergraduate) who will be selected and paid by the eScience Institute.

The Project Lead is expected to submit the project proposal. Together with the Data Scientists, the Project Leads will co-manage the student teams. The Project Lead will bear primary responsibility for project design and execution throughout the summer. The Data Scientists will provide guidance on methods, technologies, and best practices for producing knowledge from large, noisy, and/or heterogeneous datasets, as well as general software engineering. Student responsibilities will vary from project to project, but their role may include developing code, selecting methods, conducting analyses, contributing to design, preparing documentation, producing visualizations, and incorporating stakeholder perspectives into the project. The project team may also include external mentors and stakeholders as appropriate.

In addition to their direct contributions to projects, students and Project Leads will have the opportunity to participate in a number of technical tutorials, discussion-based workshops, and subject matter talks.

Time Commitment

The DSSG program takes place from mid June through late August. Project leads are expected to spend the equivalent of at least two days per week (16 hours) working directly with their DSSG project team and participating in program activities. 

Due to uncertainty around the timeline for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, these interactions will be conducted remotely via online video and chat platforms. This is our second time running a distributed DSSG program, having transitioned to remote work in 2020 due to the pandemic. The format proved to be very successful, and participants expressed high degrees of satisfaction with the experience of collaborating remotely (see below for testimonials).

This year, we hope that improving conditions will provide an opportunity for us to bring program participants to the UW campus for a culminating event at the end of the summer. However, even if feasible, participation in such a gathering would not be mandatory.

For the most part, Project Leads have the flexibility to establish a work schedule that makes sense for them and their teams. However, please note that Project Leads are expected to take part in certain program-wide activities, and so some flexibility in their availability is essential. The first week of the program consists of several mandatory orientation and teamwork sessions that require Project Lead participation, and Project Leads are also expected to participate in program-wide meetings that recur weekly or biweekly throughout the summer. 

Data Scientists from eScience also commit the equivalent of 16 hours per week to project support and mentorship, while student fellows will be employed full-time throughout the summer, and are expected to work on their assigned projects during regular business hours Monday-Friday. Due to the remote nature of the 2021 program, differing time zones will be taken into account in determining meeting times.

Proposal Submissions

Project proposals should be submitted through the online submission form by midnight (Pacific Time) on February 22nd.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please see our FAQ page for prospective Project Leads.


If you are considering submitting a project proposal to DSSG, we hope you’ll attend one of our information sessions listed above, but we also encourage you to reach out to us early on with any questions you may have about the program, selection process, or what makes a successful project. For general inquiries, please contact DSSG Program Chair Anissa Tanweer (

Additional Opportunities

Projects that apply data science methods to social issues but do not meet all of the criteria for a DSSG proposal are encouraged to get in touch as well. Whether your project is early stage, short-term, or requires work beyond the summer, opportunities are available through the eScience Institute and its partners. Please see below.

The Urbanalytics group in the Information School is seeking interdisciplinary research projects that apply computational or data science methods to urban social issues. Email to learn more.

The eScience Institute’s Data Science Incubator pairs data and domain scientists to work on selected projects in the areas of large-scale data manipulation and analytics, cloud and cluster computing, statistics and machine learning, and visualization to help researchers extract knowledge from large, complex, and noisy datasets.

The Master of Science in Data Science program offers an opportunity to partner with students on a capstone project intended for students to complete all phases of a data science solution. Students will be responsible for querying and processing data, developing feature sets and applying appropriate algorithms, and creating a basic user interface for receiving data analysis. For more information contact

To learn more about last year’s program, read our blogs about final project presentations and migrating the program online, and the quote from a former project lead below.

“Working with the DSSG summer fellows and data scientists has transformed our software eiCompare from a basic package to a cutting edge, sophisticated software suite that can clean and process voting data, identify and detect patterns of vote dilution, map and layout districting solutions and much more. What is really exciting is that we engaged with stakeholders from leading national organizations that defend voting rights, and they were all eager to incorporate and adopt the updated software and programming that the fellows built with us. So we know that in the redistricting process next year, our work this summer will definitely be out there doing social good!”

– Matt Barreto, 2020 DSSG project lead