Project Lead FAQs

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Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about submitting a project proposal for the UW Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) program.

What are the expectations regarding the source(s) of project data?

Data usage should be discussed on a case-by-case basis between Project Leads and Data Scientists during the project vetting process. As a Project Lead, it is your responsibility to secure the necessary rights for the data you intend to use, and it is very important that you answer the questions in the application form regarding any restrictions applicable to those data. Project Leads will be expected to demonstrate that any licenses or other permissions necessary to use the data for the UW DSSG program are in place prior to the final selection of their projects. For publicly available data sources, it is important that the proposed project is compatible with any terms and conditions attached to those data sources. For data licensed from non-public sources, the license terms must be compatible with the requirements of the UW DSSG program, as determined by UW DSSG program staff.

Can you help me collect data?

No. Collecting data is beyond the scope of our UW DSSG projects. Given the compressed timeline of the program, it is absolutely critical that the data already be in hand. Prospective Project Leads will need to ensure that the data they plan to use in the project is in their possession prior to the final selection of UW DSSG projects, with all needed licenses or other permissions secured and reviewed. However, UW DSSG teams will sometimes augment their analyses with additional data sources that they identify over the course of the summer. In these cases, the same standards will apply to ensure that appropriate permissions are in place for the UW DSSG program.

What are the expectations regarding any intellectual property generated by the project?

The eScience Institute does not claim ownership over the work produced in the program, but we do strongly encourage open access and open source practices to the greatest extent possible. Each participant will retain copyrights of their individual contributions, with the expectation that these contributions will be available for publication under a standard open-source license. We understand that some projects may have attributes that prevent full public disclosure. If you believe this is the case for your proposed project, this must be disclosed and discussed with eScience staff up-front during the project vetting process. We expect that students and data scientists participating in the project will be included as authors on any publications based substantially on the work undertaken as part of the UW DSSG program, in accordance with their contributions and the conventions of the field. We also expect acknowledgment of eScience support in such publications. If you believe that your proposed project may produce or contribute to novel patentable ideas, please highlight this in your application so that we can evaluate any arrangements necessary to properly account for this special case.

What do I get out of the program?

Some of the potential benefits to Project Leads include access to a team of talented and motivated students; a structured learning environment designed to make the most of intensive cross-disciplinary collaboration; a period of dedicated focus time on advancing their projects; exposure to new methods and approaches; guidance in best practices for software development, reproducible science, and human-centered design; networking opportunities that may lead to longer-term collaborations; investment that can lead to further funding and support; and publicity from participating in the program. Please see testimonials provided by some of our Project Lead alumni.

What are the responsibilities of the Project Lead and how does that relate to other roles on the team?

The Project Lead is expected to write and submit the project proposal and bears primary responsibility for project design and execution throughout the summer. Together with the Data Scientists from the eScience Institute, the Project Leads will co-manage the team of Student Fellows. This may include ensuring that work is sensibly and fairly distributed, setting milestones for project deliverables, guiding the decision-making process on the team, and navigating relationships with relevant stakeholders. Because we consider stakeholders to be important to the success of a project, we ask all Project Leads to organize at least one virtual or in-person site visit for their teams, preferably in the first three weeks of the program (June 10 – June 29). Project Leads are also in the position of being a “domain expert” or “subject matter expert” on their teams. Because the student fellows come from such a diverse array of educational backgrounds, they will likely not be well-versed in the problem space that their UW DSSG project addresses; therefore, they will rely on their Project Leads to help them get familiar with relevant prior work and to understand the background, context, and social complexity of the problem they are working on. 

The Data Scientists from the eScience Institute will provide guidance on methods, technologies, and best practices in extracting knowledge from large, noisy, and/or heterogeneous datasets, as well as general software engineering. They also help to co-manage the team of Student Fellows. 

Student responsibilities will vary from project to project, but their role may include developing code, selecting methods, conducting analyses, contributing to design, preparing documentation, and incorporating stakeholder perspectives into the project. 

The project team may also include external mentors and stakeholders as appropriate.

What is the time commitment for Project Leads?

We require Project Leads to commit to being available on average 16 hours per week. Some of this time will consist of team meetings and synchronous co-working (held in person or remotely, depending on your mode of participation), but it also includes time for being ambiently available to respond to asynchronous communications (e.g. through email and Slack) as questions arise during the Student Fellows’ day-to-day work. This time commitment also encompasses participation in mandatory program-wide activities, including onboarding during the first week of the program and regularly scheduled check-ins throughout the summer. For project leads who are able to work in person with their teams, you will have the flexibility to determine which days and hours you will spend working from the UW Campus.

Are there any specific times that I am required to be present?

While you have the flexibility to schedule coworking time with your team as you see fit, there are some events that we expect Project Leads to be present for. During the first week of the program, we will hold several orientation and team development workshops, in which Project Lead participation is crucial. That means it is important that you have a fair degree of flexibility in your schedule during the week beginning June 10, 2024, but we will develop the specific agenda in consultation with selected Project Leads. It will be important for Project Leads to be present for final public presentations and a closing reception during the last week of the program; that date will be determined prior to final project selection but will be during the week beginning August 12, 2024.

Project Leads are also expected to participate in a couple of regularly scheduled program-wide meetings that recur weekly or biweekly throughout the summer. Each week we hold a “spotlight” meeting that showcases the progress of project teams, and a program-wide meeting for check-ins and announcements that Project Leads are highly encouraged to attend. Additionally, every other week, we hold a one-hour meeting between all Project Leads, Data Scientists, and program administrators to ensure that the program is proceeding smoothly. The timing of these meetings will be established in consultation with all Project Leads selected for the program.

What if I need to be away for part of the UW DSSG program?

We understand that people have commitments over the summer, and we can accommodate absences of short duration. Prolonged or frequent absences would be detrimental to your project, and there are specific times that are crucial for Project Leads to be present; for example, any absence during the first or last two weeks of the program (June 10-22 and August 6-16) would be disruptive. Please let us know well in advance what your plans are and we will work with you to make sure your absence doesn’t impact the success of your project.

What if I can’t be available 16 hours per week as required by the UW DSSG program?

Then this program probably isn’t the best fit. You may be interested in learning about other collaborative data science opportunities at UW that have a different program structure. A description of several such opportunities can be found in the next question. For projects that have two Project Leads, coverage can sometimes be shared.

What if the UW DSSG program is not a good fit for my project at this time? Are there additional opportunities I can explore?

Projects that apply data science methods to social issues but do not meet all of the criteria for a UW 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.

The eScience Institute’s Data Science Incubator pairs data scientists 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

Will I be paid for the time I spend in the program?

Typically we provide stipends for the students who serve as Fellows in the UW DSSG program, but not for Project Leads because we expect that the projects are central components of paid work they are already doing within their departments, labs, or organizations. However, starting in 2022 we began making a pool of funds available for Project Leads in situations that warrant financial support. Please see the “Financial Support” section in the Call for Proposals for more information and a link to the application for funding.

Can the Project Lead role be shared?

Sometimes. In situations where two people have a pre-existing working relationship on the project, or each of them contributes crucial expertise, a shared Project Lead role can be considered.

I will have a student intern/research assistant working with me this summer. Can they participate in UW DSSG?

Probably. This has come up several times in the past and we have been able to incorporate the student interns in various ways. With enough advance notice, the student intern may apply to be a UW DSSG Fellow and will be considered alongside other applicants based on the merits of their application. In other cases, the intern has coordinated with the UW DSSG team without being considered a UW DSSG Fellow.

I have a team of collaborators that I work with in my organization on this project. How can they be involved in the UW DSSG program?

While it’s important for the UW DSSG teams to have a designated Project Lead who is their main collaborator and point of contact, we highly encourage regular communication and collaboration with other stakeholders on the projects, including the Project Lead’s team of collaborators. In the past, UW DSSG Fellows have conducted site visits to the offices of collaborators, provided presentations tailored to them, and held periodic conference calls with them throughout the summer.

What educational backgrounds and skills will the UW DSSG students have?

This year, fellows must be graduate students or seniors who are entering graduate school in Fall 2024. We intentionally select a cohort with a wide range of backgrounds. In the past, UW DSSG students have hailed from a wide range of fields such as astronomy, biology, computer science, economics, design, mathematics, public policy, and sociology. This means the students bring a diverse set of perspectives, skills, and knowledge to the program. We look for students with at least a baseline level of programming experience and statistics training, but some students will have more advanced technical skills than others. Please keep in mind that this is an educational opportunity for students.

Will I get to choose the students on my team?

The short answer is no, not directly. During the application process, you will have the opportunity to articulate the kinds of skills or backgrounds you anticipate needing on your project, and if your project is chosen for the program, we will keep this in mind while doing cohort selection. Then, once we have selected a cohort of students, we will share all of the project descriptions with them and ask them to indicate which projects they are most interested in working on. When making final team assignments, we will try to balance the following considerations: which projects the students are interested in, what mix of skills the project needs to be successful, what skills the students already have, and what skills the students hope to learn.

What kind of mentorship do UW DSSG Fellows get?

Each team will have one or two Project Leads; these are typically the individuals who proposed the project and will sustain the work after the summer is over. Each team will also have one or more Data Scientists who act as mentors; these are research scientists from the eScience Institute who provide advice on tools, methods, and software design, and sometimes provide project management support as well. The program will also have a Human-Centered Data Science Mentor; this person works across all teams to help integrate stakeholder perspectives and ensure that the work is well-documented and reproducible.

How are UW DSSG projects managed during the program?

While project leads provide the objectives of the project, students are given a significant opportunity to shape their daily work and come up with collaborative strategies for bringing their projects to fruition. Navigating ambiguity, particularly as projects are getting underway in the first few weeks of the program, is a key part of the UW DSSG program that can be both challenging and rewarding. The program is structured this way to promote creativity, skill-building, and teamwork. Teams are allowed to use project management software if desired.

How are the 10 weeks of the UW DSSG program structured?

The first two weeks of the program (June 10-22) have a lot of structured group activities, such as icebreakers and program orientation, essential technical tutorials, stakeholder analysis, ethics and human-centered design workshops, team building sessions, and project charter development. During the rest of the program (June 24 – August 16), there are minimal structured activities for all program participants; these include a weekly “spotlight” meeting that showcases the progress of project teams and a program-wide meeting for check-ins and announcements. We also occasionally offer tutorials throughout the summer as needed. Aside from that, you will develop a regular team schedule in conjunction with your project leads, data science mentors, and possibly external stakeholders. The final week of the program will include a public presentation of the teams’ work.

Is there an opportunity to publish the work developed during the summer?

The eScience Institute strongly supports publicly sharing and disseminating work developed in the UW DSSG. During the program we encourage different opportunities for sharing outcomes: project websites and blogs, presentations, code repositories, dataset archives, etc. In the past, some UW DSSG teams have produced short papers and posters during or after the summer to be presented at data-for-good oriented conferences, such as the Learning & Doing Data for Good (LDDG) Conference, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, the West Big Data Innovation Hub’s All Hands Meeting, the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference, and the Bloomberg Data for Good Exchange. Given that the program is short, any commitment to producing such public-facing outputs must be made with consideration for the goals, interests, and pragmatic constraints facing students and Project Leads. Typically, it is not possible to produce a scholarly journal article within the 10-week timeframe of the UW DSSG program, but peer-reviewed papers have been written based on UW DSSG work following the end of the summer program.

What happens to the projects at the end of the summer?

This is largely up to the Project Leads. One of the things we consider when reviewing proposals is the likelihood that a proposed project will be sustained beyond the summer. By infusing the program with best practices in reproducible science and human-centered design, we try to ensure that there is a smooth “hand-off” of the work to Project Leads, so that the project can be continued, implemented, or extended by them and their organizations. Having said that, there have been some cases where UW DSSG projects have led to longer-term collaborations with eScience and/or UW DSSG students, including additional funded research. eScience has also on occasions in the past supported travel for Project Leads and students to present their UW DSSG projects at conferences following the end of the summer program.