The press for data science skills and programs, enrollment in university courses, and funding of programs and centers by major donors has intensified widespread interest in using algorithms, experiments, and data analytics in public policy. Data science programs and textbooks have wrestled with problems of privacy, how good research questions are defined, how issues of data validity might be addressed, and awareness of how data might be used. The distinctiveness of the new push for data analytics may rest in the claim that all data science can be ‘translational, or useful at least as much in solving public problems more than in building fundamental understanding.
In this talk, Dr. Susan Sterett (University of Maryland) and Dr. Kelly Joyce (Drexel University) lay out some of the challenges of gathering and using big data to address small cities’ priorities and challenges. Stressing the importance of collaboration and the assemblage of multi-disciplinary teams, we describe big data projects that went (unintentionally) wrong and ones that truly addressed cities’ needs, and the theorizing about public problems implicit in each. This talk is co-sponsored by the Computational Social Science Institute at UMass, and is supported by the National Science Foundation.
Susan Sterett is Professor and Director of the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Most recently she has convened a group on legal mobilization and climate change in a workshop held at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law. She has written on displacement and disaster politics as social welfare politics, publishing in Law and Policy and the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, among other venues. She served as a program officer for three years in Law and Social Sciences at the National Science Foundation. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, and the American Philosophical Society.
Kelly Joyce is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Science, Technology, and Society program at Drexel University. Her research tackles the social dimensions of contemporary medicine. Prof. Joyce is the author of the award winning book Magnetic Appeal: MRI and the Myth of Transparency (Cornell University Press, 2008) and is co-editor of Technogenarians: Studying Health and Illness through an Aging, Science, and Technology Lens (Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2010). Her current work, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, takes up the social and political dimensions of big data and algorithms.