Day of Data analyzes role of data in society

Yale celebrated its annual Day of Data on Friday, bringing together researchers, faculty and students from Yale and other institutions across the country to discuss the value of data and information in society.

Now in its fifth year, the Day of Data this year centered on the theme of “Data and Society,” exploring how different data sources and data-driven decision-making might play into public health or digital civil society. The event featured six speakers, including keynote speakers Dean of the School of Public Health Sten Vermund and Stanford research scholar Lucy Bernholz. About 100 attended the speaker events on Friday.

“This event is a way to bring researchers from across the disciplines at Yale together to talk about how they use and manage data in their research — whether they’re in the sciences, medicine, law or public humanities,” said Melanie Maksin, the director of research support and outreach programs at the Center for Science and Social Science Information.

The Day of Data is a collaborative effort of 10 institutes spanning the Yale campus, including the CSSSI, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale Law School. Past years’ themes include open data and reproducibility, sustainability and innovation.

The 2017 theme of “Data and Society” was inspired by efforts at Yale last year to archive and preserve government data, according to Jill Parchuck, associate University librarian for science, social science and medicine at the CSSSI.

“We thought about the importance of that data to society and questions started to emerge: How does data get generated by society, who owns it and who makes use of it for what purposes?” Parchuck said.

Before Friday’s events, the Day of Data held a poster session at the CSSSI last Thursday, allowing researchers to share their findings and Yale representatives to share their organizations’ mission statements in a more intimate setting. Poster topics ranged from the prevalence of disabilities in China’s elderly population to electoral campaign advertising.

In her keynote speech, Bernholz explored the relationship between data and civil society by discussing her work in Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab. She argued that our dependence today on digital systems and devices — which are commercially built and government-surveilled — results in a lack of a theoretically independent third space outside of government or markets.

She explained four approaches, or…

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