SoReMo: The Human Side of Data Science




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Bradley Voytek, Data Science Institute, University of California, San Diego


"The data is the data" relieves us from considering where most of our data comes from: people. This phrase abstracts away the complexities of how data are collected, and the biases in the structures generating those data. Instead, the focus of data science education is often placed on the technical data science pipeline and its successes: data are ingested and cleaned, and then modeled and visualized for prediction and decision-making. These data science efforts intersect with so many parts of our lives—both directly and indirectly. Some of these points of intersection are more obvious: when we shop online, stream a TV show or movie, or look up directions in an app. Some are less obvious: advertising and marketing, epidemiology, climate change, and health. Because these data come from (and are about) people—people with plans, hopes, fears, and concerns—it’s critical for compassion, ethics, and social education to be a core component of the data science pipeline. In this talk I explore the foundations of data science, how it's being leveraged in my research field of neuroscience, and how we approach undergraduate data science education at UC San Diego.

This forum is part of the SoReMo Initiative.


Bradley Voytek is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cognitive Science, the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, and the Neurosciences Graduate Program at UC San Diego. He is both an Alfred P. Sloan Neuroscience Research Fellow and a Kavli Fellow of the National Academies of Sciences, as well as a founding faculty member of the UC San Diego Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute and the Undergraduate Data Science program, where he serves as Vice-Chair. After his PhD at UC Berkeley he joined Uber as their first data scientist, when it was a 10-person startup, where he helped build their data science strategy and team. His neuroscience research lab combines large-scale data science and machine learning to study how brain regions communicate with one another, and how that communication changes with development, aging, and disease. He is an advocate for promoting science to the public, and speaks extensively with students at all grade levels about the joys of scientific research and discovery. In addition to his academic publications, his outreach work has appeared in outlets ranging from Scientific American and NPR to the San Diego Comic-Con. His most important contribution to science though is his book with fellow neuroscientist Tim Verstynen, "Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?", by Princeton University Press.

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