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Goergen Institute Distinguished Speaker urges ‘data for good’

December 14, 2017
speaker in front of a presentation slide that says DATA FOR GOOD“When we are training data scientists of the future, it’s not just the analysis we have to be concerned with,” says Jeannette Wing, the new director of data science at Columbia University. “It’s also all the steps that come before and, just as importantly, what comes after.” (University of Rochester photo / Bob Marcotte)

Many people think of data science in terms of analysis of datasets. But as Jeannette Wing, the new director of data science at Columbia University, stressed to an audience at the University of Rochester’s Goergen Institute for Data Science recently, data science entails a lot more than that.

“When we are training data scientists of the future, it’s not just the analysis we have to be concerned with,” Wing said. “It’s also all the steps that come before and, just as importantly, what comes after.”

Wing, a guest as part of the institute’s Distinguished Speaker Series, addressed the responsible use of data in her talk, “Data for Good,” delivered in the Wegmans Hall auditorium.

She suggested that the responsible use of data should have two main thrusts:

  • Addressing problems that will really benefit society. Energy, climate change, health care, and education are among the “societal grand challenges where we need multiple disciplines to come together,” Wing said. “Data science is a part of that.”
  • Thinking about the fair and ethical use of data “from the beginning, as you define the technology, not after you deploy it,” Wing said. “This is something that I think computer scientists and technology people tend to not pay enough attention to.”

Wing was appointed professor of computer science and the Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute at Columbia earlier this year. From 2013 to 2017, she was a corporate vice president at Microsoft Research. She twice served as the head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University, and from 2007 to 2010 was the assistant director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation. Wing holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in computer science from MIT.

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Category: Science & Technology