Data Science newsletter – March 6, 2022

Newsletter features journalism, research papers and tools/software for March 6, 2022


Meta ends decade-long privacy lawsuit with $90 million settlement

Recorded Future, The Record, Emma Vail


A nearly decade-long data privacy lawsuit against Meta, previously Facebook Inc., has ended in a $90 million settlement agreement and a requirement to “sequester and delete” user data that was collected between April of 2010 and September of 2011.

The complaints alleged that the company illegally profited from and collected user data. The plaintiffs in the class-action suit accused Facebook of using cookies and plug-ins to monitor visits to third-party sites (which utilized Facebook’s “Like” button) even after the users logged out, contradictory to Facebook’s assurance that it would not do so.

Although the agreed-upon settlement would be considered one of the largest data privacy settlements in U.S. history — pending court approval — the plaintiffs originally sought out $15 billion in damages.

Meet the Carnegie Mellon grads digitally mapping all 446 of Pittsburgh’s bridges, hoping to avert future collapses

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jesse Bunch


It was 2016, and his professor — world-renowned roboticist Red Whittaker — tasked students to design a robot that would inspect the stability of an aging nuclear site deep within the interior of Washington state. Just a few hours drive from Portland, Ore., the site held 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in an underground rail tunnel.

After a year’s worth of work, his team made a big prediction the following May.

“We actually predicted that this tunnel would collapse,” [Alexander] Baikovitz said. “Coincident with our predictions, on the day of my semester presentation to Red’s course, that tunnel actually collapsed.”

University Launches New Electrical and Computer Engineering Degree

University of New Haven, The Charger Blog


A new bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) offers exciting experiences for students, including new courses and opportunities for collaboration, that prepare graduates for in-demand careers in two areas of engineering that are increasingly becoming aligned.

Gina Raimondo: “Let’s get back to the business of building microchips in America”

MIT News


The global semiconductor shortage, a major driver of ballooning U.S. inflation, is as much a national security issue as an economic issue, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said during a recent visit to MIT.

Speaking at MIT.nano, a shared 214,000-square-foot research center for nanoscale science and engineering located in the heart of campus, Raimondo said that not long ago, the U.S. produced about 40 percent of the world’s semiconductors. Today, the nation makes only about 12 percent.

By producing more semiconductors domestically, the U.S. could drive down the costs of the countless consumer goods that contain chips, and limit its reliance on imported semiconductors, especially highly advanced chips for military equipment.

Massachusetts Awards Harvard and Boston University $3 Million for Assistive Robotics and Wearable Technology Research

Harvard University, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences


Harvard and Boston University have been awarded new grant of $3 million from the State House to support the development of next-generation robotics and wearable technologies. Researchers aim to improve the lives of people with neuro-motor impairments and to help individuals achieve ambitious fitness goals, driving innovation in a new category of rehabilitation, diagnostic, and assistive devices that are more lightweight, affordable, and connected.

Led by Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the project involves a collaboration with Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, as well as with industry partners that are poised to bring innovations to market. The first two industry partners are ReWalk Robotics, Inc. of Marlborough, which designs and develops powered solutions that provide gait training and mobility for lower limb disabilities; and Imago Rehab, of Arlington, MA, a startup founded by Harvard engineers in 2021 to improve recovery outcomes for stroke survivors through a combination of home-use wearable robotics and digital health.

Women Data Scientists of the World, Unite!

Ms. Magazine, Jacob Smith and Carol Stabile


The Women in Data Science Conference (WiDS) was born of a problem: How can we remove the barriers to success that traditionally bar women from accessing the increasingly critical field of data science?

WiDS co-founder Professor Margot Gerritsen is no stranger to this problem. Gerritsen, who received her Ph.D. in scientific computing and computational mathematics at Stanford University, recalls that as a woman and an international student pursuing a degree in computational science nearly three decades ago, there were few people she felt closely connected to—and fewer still who understood the challenges she faced in scientific fields. “You can’t be what you can’t see” wasn’t yet a slogan, but Gerritsen knew she wanted to help break down the barriers she had faced in the field so that other women would not have to overcome the same obstacles.

Along with co-founders Karen Matthys and Esteban Arcaute, Gerritsen set out to help diversify data science. Their vision of an inclusive future for data science lies at the core of WiDS’s mission.

Stanford Health Care appoints inaugural chief data scientist

Stanford Medicine, News Center


Nigam Shah, MBBS, PhD, professor of medicine and of biomedical data science, has been appointed Stanford Health Care’s inaugural chief data scientist.

The appointment was effective March 1.

Reporting to Michael Pfeffer, MD, associate dean and chief information officer at Stanford Health Care and the Stanford School of Medicine, Shah will lead an effort to integrate artificial intelligence into patient care, medical research and administrative services.

@birdwatch is Twitter’s initiative towards community-based misinformation detection.

Twitter, Srian Kumar


We built a user reputation system to make Birdwatch reliable:

U.N. panel warns of global warming’s toll on humans and nature

Science, ScienceInsider, Paul Voosen


With temperatures already 1.2℃ warmer than in preindustrial times, some ecosystems are nearing a hard limit on their ability to adapt, including warm water coral reefs, coastal wetlands and rainforests, and the frigid mountain and polar realms, the report warns. And although humanity can adapt to warming more easily than the natural world, it needs to move faster, says Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University and one of 270 report co-authors. “We’re not keeping up. The rate of climate change is faster than our ability to figure out how to deal with climate change.”

The report is part of IPCC’s sixth assessment of climate science, a process its volunteer scientists undertake every 7 to 8 years. A first report, released in August 2021, documented the evidence of climate change: rising seas, extreme heat, severe storms. The new report looks at its impacts on humans and nature—and our ability to adapt to it. (A third report, on reducing emissions, is due in April.)

The Evolution of Conversational AI

Medium, Catherine Breslin


Conversation comes naturally to us. It’s remarkable just how fluently we can converse on any number of topics, and adapt our style with ease to speak with any number of people.

In contrast, our conversations with machines can be clumsy and stilted. Conversational AI has been a long-standing research topic, and much progress has been made over the last decades. There are some large-scale deployed systems that we’re able to interact with by language, both spoken and written, although I’m sure very few people would call the interactions natural. But whether it’s a task-based conversation like booking a travel ticket, or a social chatbot that makes small talk, we’ve seen continual evolution in the way the technology is built.

A Collaborative Proposal for a United States AI Bill of Rights



In early October 2021, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy filed a federal document to seek public comments about a proposed AI “bill of rights” that would develop new measures to safeguard against harms caused by the use of facial recognition and other biometric AI technologies to identify people or assess their character. The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture and Immerse decided to join together to submit a public statement on behalf of and with their communities. We first created an open call for comments and then we drafted a public statement based on these comments and held a second open call for signatures and projects. Below is our public statement that we submitted to the Office of Science and with signatures. We have also published a companion list of reports and projects created by members of our communities that use or address AI technologies.

University of Illinois Professor’s Expertise in Machine Learning for Audio Benefits Creation of New Beatles Documentary

University of Illinois, Grainger College of Engineering, Computer Science


[Paris] Smaragdis heard from the engineering team working on the documentary, at which point they asked if he could help clean up this treasure trove of old Beatles audio. The issue being that the audio was incredibly messy.

This audio came mostly from one microphone that picked up sounds from a room full of musicians, producers, friends and collaborators. The documentary wanted to extract speech and music from these sounds so they could properly portray the development of an iconic piece of music to a new audience.

“That first phone call started with them asking me if this could even be done. I told them that if they tried it 10 years ago, I would say there was no way it was possible. But we’ve had several great advancements over these years that, I believed, could make this possible,” Smaragdis said. “I will say, though, when I did hear some of the first sample recordings, I started freaking out a bit, because of the audio quality.”

Revolutionary climate data portal critical to future planning

University of Hawaiʻi System News, UH News


Knowledge of climate patterns is critically important for a variety of resource management issues, including groundwater and surface water development and protection, controlling and eradicating invasive species, protecting and restoring native ecosystems, and planning for the effects of global warming. Resource managers, climate researchers, educators and students have a powerful new tool with the launch of the Hawaiʻi Climate Data Portal (HCDP).

In support of closing data gaps and providing easy public access to climate data and information for the state, the University of Hawaiʻi’s Hawaiʻi Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (Hawaiʻi ESPCoR) ʻIke Wai project and the Hawaiʻi Data Science Institute have partnered with the UH Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) and East-West Center on this online open-source platform that hosts a wide range of data products, climate tools and resources.


Thrilled to announce: The inaugural International Conference on Science of Science and Innovation (@ICSSI2022)

Twitter, Dashuan Wang


“to be held in the National Academy of Sciences IN PERSON in DC, June 7-9 2022:”

Join us at our events for #CamFest 2022, as we explore data, access and online disinformation.

Twitter, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy


“Information about our events throughout the Festival is in the thread below.”


NeurIPS 2021 Call for Papers

Abstract submission deadline: Monday, May 16



The eScience Institute’s Data Science for Social Good program is now accepting applications for student fellows and project leads for the 2021 summer session. Fellows will work with academic researchers, data scientists and public stakeholder groups on data-intensive research projects that will leverage data science approaches to address societal challenges in areas such as public policy, environmental impacts and more. Student applications due 2/15 – learn more and apply here. DSSG is also soliciting project proposals from academic researchers, public agencies, nonprofit entities and industry who are looking for an opportunity to work closely with data science professionals and students on focused, collaborative projects to make better use of their data. Proposal submissions are due 2/22.


Tools & Resources

Articles > Essay Introducing the Just Tech Platform

Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Michael Miller


The Just Tech platform will serve as a forum, a catalog, and a showcase for research and researchers advancing critical inquiry at the nexus of technological development, inequity, and social justice. Through agenda-setting reviews of research, critical analyses, interviews, and researcher profiles, Just Tech will engage a field of research and practice as it stands and as it moves; as scholars, journalists, artists, and activists delineate the contours of a field that does not—that cannot—reside within a single discipline, much less within the academy.


Tenured and tenure track faculty positions

Professor of Sociology & Public Policy

Cornell University, Brooks School of Public Policy and the Department of Sociology Cornell University; Ithaca, NY

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