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By Jayasree Jaganatha, Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) – 

Notes, takeaways, and resources from our second event (featuring Iheoma Iruka, Milton Suggs, and Emily Putnam-Hornstein) – 

On March 24, 2022, Carolina Data Science Now hosted the third iteration of its seminar series, which will strive to link the people, research, and resources by highlighting the many faces of data science across our campus, and demonstrating the integral role data science can play in all disciplines.

Check out a recording of the event here.

This Month’s Speakers

The theme of the event was “Transforming Youth Advocacy.” The speakers were selected to provide insight on how data science tools are applied to create safe, enriching environments for the growth and development of minors.

Iheoma Iruka | Public Policy

Iheoma Iruka presented, “Monitoring Progress on the Black Child National Agenda,” and shared an overview of the work done by the Equity Child Research Coalition at the UNC FPG Child Development Institute.

Read more about the lightning talk here.

Milton Suggs | FPG Child Development Institute

Milton Suggs discussed his current project, “Data Toward Equity & the Black Child National Agenda,” which aims to use data science to give shape to the concepts and goals behind the Equity Child Research Coalition at the UNC FPG Child Development Institute.

Read more about the lightning talk here.

Emily Putnam-Hornstein | School of Social Work

Emily Putnam-Hornstein spoke on “Predictive Risk Modeling: A Controversial (but necessary) Tool for Child Protection,” methods used to develop algorithmic risk models that could save the lives of children.

Read more about the lightning talk here.

Speaker Q&A

Questions for the speakers were collected through an EasyRetro board. Topics during this section included:

  • Methods to ensure transparency for algorithms, such as commitment from collaborators at the beginning of the project to document all of the relevant information in a publication or ethical review, and bringing in third-party evaluators or community members to voice concerns throughout the process.
  • How the use of data science pushes changes from policymakers, from inspiring strategic plans to spurring action.
  • The differences between using datasets from today and from the ‘70s – ‘80s, due to inequities in the collection methods, accessibility in scale, and type of participants included.
  • Ways that researchers can reconcile the perceived “objectiveness” of data with potential biases, including triangulating sources; unpacking the assumption that research is inherently objective; and having conversations about the origin, power, and collection of data.
  • The widespread benefits and critiques behind the use of algorithms, which are both innovative and in need of guardrails. 
  • Intermediary community members often provide the influential appeals and evidence that policymakers need to truly affect change.
  • Whether raw data from the county level can be disaggregated to the city or neighborhood levels to see what correlations and patterns can be found.


Conversations with the Data Science Community

For this month’s community activity, the Carolina Data Science Now team encouraged attendees to share resources that empower children to learn about data science and encourage them to pursue a career in STEM from a young age. Creating training materials for kids, volunteering time to teach kids, and sharing resources that are easily accessible to parents are just a few of the options that make a difference. Those who submitted entries were called on during our community discussion to present a one-minute stand-up talk on their resource. 

Resources were collected through a Padlet wall. Members of the UNC data science community are encouraged to continue adding resources to the board. Resources should be accessible to a wide audience. Categories include books, videos, hands-on activities, volunteer and mentorship opportunities, age-specific tools, and related organizations and initiatives and more.

A full list of educational programs, funding opportunities, on-campus support services, tools and software, and more shared during Carolina Data Science Now seminars can be found on our Resources page.

Next Seminar

Our next seminar will be held on May 26 at 12 PM (ET). Please stay tuned to our website for the most updated information.

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