By Rob Mitchum

Reducing infant mortality, improving graduation rates for high school and first-generation college students, preventing home abandonment, and identifying legislative plagiarism are just some of the project goals for the 2015 Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship. For fourteen weeks, 42 fellows in Chicago will work with nonprofit and government partners on these and other important problems, applying data mining, machine learning, statistical, and social science techniques to craft novel and useful solutions.

Each summer, the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) fellowship creates a new community of experts — graduate students and data professionals from around the globe — driven to improve the world using data, computational, and scientific approaches. This year, the program will focus on projects in education, economic development, public health and safety, the environment, policy, and international aid.

“These projects represent exciting opportunities to solve complex problems and demonstrate the potential of data science to deepen the impact of public programs and nonprofit efforts” said Rayid Ghani, director and founder of DSSG, a University of Chicago program. “The summer provides fellows with valuable technical training as well as real, hands-on experience collaborating with partners in the government and philanthropic sectors.”

Public Health & Safety

  • As part of the White House Police Data Initiative, DSSG will help police departments improve their early warning systems by identifying behaviors predictive of future problems. These models can then be used by police departments to provide additional training and resources for officers.

  • DSSG fellows will build a data model to predict poor birth outcomes so that the Illinois Department of Human Services can proactively enroll high-risk pregnant women in their Better Birth Outcomes program.

  • With Feeding America, a team will create a system for local food banks to close their “meal gap,” helping them find nearby restaurants and convenience stores with excess food to donate.

Education

  • DSSG will help school districts in Washington, North Carolina, and Virginia use data to identify students at risk of not graduating on time so that schools can intervene early.

  • Another team will work with educators at high-performing public charter schools in Chicago and New Jersey to forecast college persistence for low-income high school graduates and identify additional support that will increase students’ chances of completing college.

Economic Development

  • By identifying important factors that increase the risk of home abandonment, DSSG will help Infonavit, Mexico’s largest mortgage provider, provide services and support policy changes that help low-income homeowners.

  • Another team will build a model for the City of Cincinnati that proactively anticipates building code violations so that officials can conduct more effective inspections and rehabilitation programs.

  • Another project will construct a rich, new data source addressing the “skills gap” — identifying in-demand job skills that can shape local training campaigns for the unemployed and students entering the workforce.

Environment & Conservation

Transparency

For more information on the Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship, visit dssg.uchicago.edu or follow us on Twitter @datascifellows.

Photos of DSSG teams, fellows and nonprofit and governmental partners available upon request. To schedule a visit to the DSSG summer program or for additional quotes and information contact Rob Mitchum at rmitchum@uchicago.edu.