Since becoming a member of PIT-UN in 2019, Boston University has endeavored to make public interest technology (PIT) central to our computing and data sciences initiative. We have created a new multi-disciplinary Data Science 4 Good (DS4G) Steering Committee to help guide our PIT priorities. Via a PIT Challenge Grant, BU launched the Impact Hub on Equity (formerly known as the Equity Data Science Lab) in 2020, to advance data science projects and partnerships related to equity, including seeding creation of the Justice Media co-Lab (another PIT-UN funded project) which partners students with media outlets to advance justice and transparency via data-driven reporting. BU is also launching an Impact Hub on Civic Tech to focus on projects that are at the intersection of technology, policy, and society. Finally, with PIT-UN support, we led the first systematic effort to understand the state of the PIT field, and provide a baseline understanding of PIT activities and programs for each of the 43 members. This project was designed to help members think systematically about the means to advance PIT research and education, and understand the available levers – and barriers – to growth.
Within BU we have created several different engagement mechanisms including the Civic Tech Fellows Program to engage Faculty, the Impact Fellowship to engage Post-Docs, and the Experts in Residence Program to engage community partners in this work. We have also created a new PhD, and undergraduate degree and forthcoming minor in Data Science, [which center ethics, social impact and experiential learning – all core tenets of PIT.] This semester we launched searches for tenure track faculty at the intersection of law, technology, and society and developed and launched several new PIT focused courses including one planned for Spring 2022 on DEI in Tech, a student-led seminar course that will train a cohort of student leaders to facilitate conversations and content about how diversity, equity, inclusion and justice show up across the technology sector from academia to industry to the research and products they create.
Azer Bestavros, Associate Provost for Computing and Data Science
Justice Media Co-Lab
A partnership between Boston University’s College of Communication (COM) and the new Faculty of Computing and Data Sciences (CDS), the Justice Media co-Lab engages faculty, students, and external experts in research and innovation collaborations, and curricular and co-curricular programs with the potential for real-world impact.
Brooke Williams, Associate Professor of the Practice of Computational Journalism, Boston University
Career Pipeline/Placement; Faculty and Institution Building
The Equity Data Science Lab
BU seeks to establish an interdisciplinary data science lab to facilitate collaboration and engagement of faculty, students, and external partners around research and applications that have real-world impact. The first of these thematically based labs will focus on equity. The Equity Data Science Lab (EDSL) forms the infrastructure to convene BU and community partners to identify areas where computing and data science can increase our understanding of issues related to inequity including race, gender and sexual identity, physical and mental ability, ethnicity and immigrant status and build solutions that make a difference. Funding from PIT-UN will apply toward hiring a program manager who will help launch and establish EDSL.
Ziba Cranmer, Director, BU SPARK! and Azer Bestavros, Director, Data Science Initiative, Associate Provost for Computing and Data Sciences
Faculty and Institution Building
Justice Media Collective
BU seeks to establish interdisciplinary collaborations involving faculty and students around courses and aimed at training the next generation of public interest technologists and data-driven investigative reporters. The Justice Media Collective will target students from diverse majors, with a particular focus on computing, data science, and journalism disciplines. Courses and the summer program will be led by faculty from the College of Communication’s Journalism Department and the Faculty for Computing & Data Science; projects will be completed on behalf of local media partner organizations including The Bay State Banner, The Boston Globe, and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, based at WGBH, a Boston-area NPR Station.
Brooke Williams, Associate Professor of the Practice of Computational Journalism