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Planning for Data for Good at JSM

1 July 2018 No Comment
This column is written for those interested in learning about the world of Data for Good, where statistical analysis is dedicated to good causes that benefit our lives, our communities, and our world. If you would like to know more or have ideas for articles, contact David Corliss.

David Corliss With a PhD in statistical astrophysics, David Corliss works in analytics architecture at Ford Motor Company while continuing astrophysics research on the side. He serves on the steering committee for the Conference on Statistical Practice and is president-elect of the Detroit Chapter. He is the founder of Peace-Work, a volunteer cooperative of statisticians and data scientists providing analytic support for charitable groups and applying statistical methods to issue-driven advocacy in poverty, education, and social justice.

With JSM just around the corner, it’s a good time to think about how to include Data for Good in your JSM activities. JSM is a huge event and can seem overwhelming. However, with a bit of planning, the Joint Statistical Meetings can be tamed and enjoyed.

It’s important to resist the temptation to overbook, dashing from one presentation to the next. JSM is about so much more than the papers! One strategy is to find the “big rocks”—a small number of activities most important to you—put them in your schedule, and then plan around them.

Every person can make sure Data for Good is one of those big rocks. Be sure to include time for meeting, networking, and just enjoying the event. As Student t often plays a role in my own D4G work, I always pay proper homage to William Gossett by raising a glass of a certain Irish stout.

When selecting papers, note how important it is to attend in person. For example, I don’t know why anyone would want to attend mine, which is about keeping your skill set up to date by doing Data for Good projects, because the content is just as good in print (but the rest of the invited session is great). Make a list of the papers you can read later and the big rocks to see in person.

Networking is a huge part of conferences! Plan time for this. If there is a person you want to meet, attend a paper they are presenting (if there is one) and don’t book the following time slot.

Highlighted D4G Papers

An invited session, Data Science for Social Good, will be presented Thursday, August 2, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. DataKind founder Jake Porway will speak about designing for impact, followed by Darren Banks from RTI, who will touch on arrest-related deaths, and Erika Salomon from The University of Chicago, who will discuss interventions for people at risk of incarceration. The papers—and especially the discussion time at the end of the session—will be an important D4G highlight for JSM 2018.

Projects by Statistics without Borders (SWB) and their partners are featured in several presentations. An invited session August 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. will highlight recent SWB projects, including work related to the European migrant crisis and winter shelter for survivors of the 2015 Gorka earthquake.

Keep in mind that many of the most valuable presentations will be those on methodology that normally don’t say D4G on the label. Margaret Levenstein’s paper, “Transparency, Reproducibility, and Replicability in Work with Social and Economic Data” is one good example. Presentations about working with public data sources, such as those mentioned in the May Stats4Good column, and those focusing on collaboration and communication with nonstatisticians will be especially helpful.

Not Attending JSM?

Not going to JSM, but interested in doing more with Data for Good? The presentations and other resources are not for attendees only. As JSM is a nexus of all things statistical, searching the speakers, talks, and posters is valuable for anyone, but perhaps most of all for those unable to attend. Most of the research for this month’s column came from the JSM online program, which is a tremendously valuable resource. Each person will want to look for subjects and speakers that interest them most. If you can’t be there in person, you can still mine the presentations, look for opportunities, and make connections for your next project.

Bringing Data for Good Home

There are so many great opportunities at JSM, and everyone can make Data for Good one of them. Be sure to take some time to talk with presenters. Think about possibilities for your next D4G project and get connected with the people involved. When you are ready to leave, be sure to bring JSM—and Data for Good—home with you!

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