The eScience Institute

The Urban Data Science for Social Good Program at the University of Washington eScience Institute

Ariel Rokem, University of Washington eScience Institute

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Addressing two major challenges:

How do we enable data-driven approaches in institutions devoted to social good?

How can we provide training for data-scientists interested in social good?

Our solution

A ten-week internship program matching student DSSG fellows with project leads from organizations in the Seattle region devoted to social good, for intense joint work focused on providing a specific data-driven solution.

A bit of context

The eScience Institute
Our mission: "All across our campus, the process of discovery will increasingly rely on researchers’ ability to extract knowledge from vast amounts of data... In order to remain at the forefront, UW must be a leader in advancing these techniques and technologies, and in making [them] accessible to researchers in the broadest imaginable range of fields"
The eScience Institute

Incubator projects

Focused, intensive, collaborative projects

Data scientists + domain scientists

Results that wouldn't be possible otherwise

Improved Stimulation Protocols for Sight Restoration Technologies

With Ione Fine and Geoff Boynton, Department of Psychology

Urban @ UW


Inclusive data-driven innovation for the future of cities

Bridging organization:

Between the University and the City

Between researchers

Facilitating translational urban research

Educating scholars, practitioners and citizens

Data Science for Social Good

University of Chicago, since 2012

Georgia Tech, since 2014

The Urban Data Science for Social Good Summer Program

Our recipe

4 projects (with project leads)

of 11 applications

17 DSSG Fellows

of 144 applications

6 High School students (ALVA program)

The eScience infrastructure

  • eScience Data Scientist Mentors
  • Program managers
  • Data science studio

  • Training in data science:

    Group tutorials
    Software Carpentry

    Individual mentorship

    Peer instruction and collaboration

    The projects

    Assessing Community Well-being through Open Data

    Project Lead: Shelly Farnham, Third Place Technologies
    DSSG Fellows: Jordan Bates, Ryan Burns, Jenny Ho, Yue Zhou
    ALVA Students: Avery Glass, Jennifer Nino
    eScience Data Scientist Mentors: Bernease Herman, Bill Howe

    Socrata crime incidence data

    Survey data

    Data from social networks (facebook, twitter, etc.)


    Rerouting Solutions for King County Paratransit

    Project Lead: Anat Caspi, Taskar Center for Accessible Technology
    DSSG Fellows:Rohan Aras, Frank Fineis, Kristen Garofali, Kivan Polimis
    DREU Fellow: Emily Andrulis, Cornell College
    eScience Data Scientist Mentors: Joseph Hellerstein, Valentina Staneva
    Optimizing routing to reduce costs and develop tools to aid route planning

    Open Sidewalks: route maps for low-mobility citizens

    Project Leads: Nick Bolten Anat Caspi, Taskar Center for Accessible Technology
    DSSG Fellows: Amir Amini, Yun Hao, Vaishnavi Ravichandran, Andre Stephens
    ALVA Students : Nick Krasnoselsky, Doris Layman
    eScience Data Scientist Mentors: Anthony Arendt, Jake Vanderplas
    Connecting open sidewalk data through computational geometry
    Powered by data from
    SDOT/Socrata, Google API

    Predictors of Permanent Housing for Homeless Families

    Project Leads: Anjana Sundaram, Neil Roche, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    DSSG Fellows: Joan Wang, Jason Portenoy, Fabliha Ibnat, Chris Suberlak
    ALVA Students: Cameron Holt, Xilalit Sanchez
    eScience Data Scientist Mentors: Ariel Rokem, Bryna Hazelton
    Family Trajectories through Programs cleaning

    A few lessons we learned

    It is possible to both:

  • Have impact on social good through data
  • Provide data scientists with effective training

    Trainee diversity poses a challenge in formal settings

    But might be a strength in the context of project work!

    Stakeholder involvement is important
    (no projects "thrown over the fence")

    In-house expertise (data scientists, program managers) are an important asset to the program

  • Applications for Summer 2016 now open!

    Visit to apply