Data science has the potential to enable powerful decisions across the economy. Ethics in data science and artificial intelligence has come up frequently in recent years and is a continuous point of conversation inside and outside of the tech industry. For the last five years, Georgia Tech's College of Computing has made a serious effort to teach students an ethical mindset through various programs and ethics courses.
To help emerging leaders learn how to use their data skills for good, five faculty members from three Georgia Tech schools - School of Computer Science, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Public Policy - came together to create the First Data Science for Social Good Workshop.
Held April 1-2 on Georgia Tech’s campus, faculty members Omar Isaac Asensio, Natashia Boland, Rachel Cummings, Jamie Morgenstern, and Ira Wheaton Jr. organized panels and talks focused on mechanism design, algorithmic fairness, artificial intelligence, machine learning, optimization, and simulation.
“We wanted to give students from around the world an opportunity to come together and see that people from all kinds of backgrounds are interested in computing. This kind of collaboration and connection is essential for the future of computing,” said Cummings, an assistant professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE).
Aimed at advanced undergraduates or recent graduates who are considering graduate school in data science or a related field, the workshop was designed so that attendees could form meaningful connections with one another. This included breakout sessions that were grouped by academic cohorts to allow for mentoring and technical discussions. Two-minute lightning talks were also dispersed throughout the workshop as icebreakers.
The workshop hosted a lineup of keynote speakers that included Rediet Abebe, co-founder of Black in AI, Sean Barnes, an assistant professor from the University of Maryland, and Kaitlin Rizk, a consulting analyst at Accenture. Other keynotes were presented by Kira Goldner, Sanmi (Oluwasanmi) Koyejo, Destenie Nock, Jennifer Lewis Priestley, and Alba C. Rojas-Cordova.
“People think of data scientists as nerds who look at numbers all day, which can be true, but the reason that data scientists are sought after in every industry is because of their ability to look at all types of data and use it to solve real problems. I want to encourage everyone in this room to work hard, if not harder, on their soft skills because that is how you can make all of the numbers impact people in a positive way,” said Lewis Priestley, a Georgia Tech alumna and current professor at Kennesaw State University.
Data science has proven to have significant societal impacts on a variety of industries, including healthcare, transportation, data privacy, and renewable energy.
Ejeh Okorafor, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and one of 80 plus attendees, found out about the workshop from a friend.
“I wanted to come to this workshop because I’ve started to realize how much data science is a part of every field and it’s the direction that technology is going. Being able to combine those skills with the knowledge of how to use them to positively affect people is really inspiring and something I hope to be able to do throughout my career,” said Okafor.
Attendees were accepted on an application-only basis. The organizers plan to continue the workshop in 2020.