In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “knowledge is power,” an adage that data scientists understand too well given that data science is quickly becoming the new currency for sound decision making and policy development. But not all data are created equal. Today’s data revolution is not just about big data, but the emergence of all sizes and types of data.
Seven years ago, researchers who are now at the University of Virginia's Biocomplexity Institute recognized that today’s data revolution should be focused more on how we are "doing data science" than just "big data analytics," a trendy buzzword with little value to policy makers or communities trying to solve complex social issues.
Our researchers understood the dilemma and disparities in health, education, economic, environmental exposures, and criminal justice across America, which have reached a tipping point, and require a new public good approach to help inform policy decisions, decide on interventions, and evaluate their consequences, one driven by data.
Through its distinctive Data Science for the Public Good (DSPG) initiative, the Biocomplexity Institute’s Social and Decision Analytics research team works to make it possible to bring the all data revolution to all organizations, from local, state, and federal governments to industry and non-profit organizations, expanding its reach, application, understanding, and impact.
Data Science for the Public Good encompasses a multi-dimensional and innovative approach to solving some of the most challenging social issues of our time. We manage a collaborative research portfolio, a Young Scholars summer program, and a Forum for civic engagement.
Three-State Coalition for the Public Good
In January of 2020, the USDA awarded a $1 million grant to the Biocomplexity Institute to lead the development of a three-state Coordinated Innovation Network and expand the Institute’s highly successful DSPG program beyond the Commonwealth of Virginia for the first time.
The three-state Coordinated Innovation Network includes five public universities across three states: Oregon State University, Iowa State University, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, and Virginia State University, each with its own tailored yet similar DSPG program, including a Young Scholars program.
The expected outcomes from the Three-State Coalition initiative include:
- Promoting economic mobility through use of data science
- Utilizing evidence-based decision-making capacity
- Bringing data science to rural areas with a scalable, and repeatable process
- Developing new datasets and information resources for use by communities and researchers
- Empowering public services and local organizations to develop and share data to the benefit of all
- Developing programs that serve as an incubator to promote workforce development
- Opening of entrepreneurial space for the development of new products, processes, and tools based on local community data
- Boosting the quality of life, and efficient and equitable delivery of services in their communities