The seminar series took place between  2016-2018.

In recent years, data science — the application of interdisciplinary, quantitative methods that transform data into useful information — has rapidly expanded to numerous domains beyond its initial home in business analytics. This surge has seen data scientists create new tools — tools used by journalists, social scientists, engineers, and governments — to tackle important problems in the public sphere. So in 2016, GOV/LAB launched the Data Science to Solve Social Problems seminar series (DS3P) to highlight practitioners who are using these tools to take on these “real world” social problems. Drawing from statistics, predictive modelling, machine learning, data visualization, and other fields, speakers share their work on problems ranging from open government to environmental policy to criminal justice to international development.

Our goal for this series is to promote dialogue between social scientists, data analysts, and engineers working on innovative projects in nonprofits and government. Previous speakers have addressed many challenges, both technical and policy-oriented. Mehdi Jamei, Executive Director at Bayes Impact, shared how his team uses publicly available data to improve how governments measure access to healthcare, but questions remain about open-source tools’ potential for abuse. Winter Mason’s presentation on Facebook’s citizen engagement tools likewise raises questions about Facebook’s role in shaping nature of political discourse.

Since the seminar series’ launch, GOV/LAB has hosted speakers from a wide variety of perspectives across industry, journalism, government, and the nonprofit sector. From the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and the City of Boston to ProPublica’s investigative journalism team, and an MIT alum using data science to modernize political campaigns, this series connects researchers with potential collaborators across different sectors who can build on their findings to make a societal impact.

Here are all the seminars we held as part of the series: 

  • Measuring Partisan Conflict in Congress Using Unstructured Data and Machine Learning: Patrick van Kessel, Data Science Associate, Pew Research Center. March 20, 2016. Full description here.
  • Holding Algorithms Accountable: Hidden Biases in Machine Learning: Jeff Larson, Data Editor, ProPublica, November 1, 2016. Full description here.
  • Building Data-Driven Government: From Filling Potholes to Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration:  Kelly Jin, Policy Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. December 2, 2016. Full description here.
  • Reaching the New Voter: Political Analytics for Modern Campaigns: Charlotte Swasey, Data Scientist, Civis Analytics. March 13, 2017. Full description here.
  • The Future of Data Science in the City of Boston: Andrew Therriault, Chief Data Officer, City of Boston. April 10, 2017. Full description here.
  • Increasing Voter Knowledge with Pre-Election Interventions on Facebook: Winter Mason, Data Scientist, Facebook. November 13, 2017. Full description here. Read the news coverage of the event here
  • Using Data Science to Monitor Health Plan Compliance — Bayes Impact: Mehdi Jamei, Executive Director, Bayes Impact. December 7, 2017. Full description here. Read the news coverage of the event here
  • The City of Long Beach Justice Lab: A Data-Driven Approach: Alma Castro, Deputy Director, Innovation Team. February 8, 2018. Full description here. Read the news coverage of the event here
  • The Role of Data Science in Getting Power to the People — DataKind: Jake Porway, Founder and Executive Director, DataKind. March 18, 2018. Full description here. Read the news coverage of the event here
  • Using Data to Anticipate and Prevent Famines — Gro Intelligence: Sara Menker, Founder and CEO, Gro Intelligence. April 9, 2018. Full description here.
  • Drugs, Data, and District Attorneys — ACLU of Massachusetts: Carl Williams (Staff Attorney) and Nasser Eledroos ( Technology Fellow) from the American Civil Liberties Union, Massachusetts. April 24, 2018. Full description here. Read the news coverage of the event here