Data for Social Good: Possibilities and Potential Pitfalls

Berkeley Distinguished Lectures in Data Science

The growth of data science, both in terms of the availability of massive data sources as well as powerful computational methods for analyzing them, opens up new possibilities for scientific advancement. In the social sciences, it raises the possibility that scholars can address a longstanding lack of high quality information about the social, political, and economic status of marginal populations. However, all social data has weaknesses and biases, regardless of the size of the data set. In this talk I will explore the new possibilities big data has opened up within the social sciences – with tools such as social network analyses and geospatial information systems, among others. Yet, the transformational potential of data science to advance social well-being can only be realized if scholars are mindful of the potential for these new approaches to re-inscribe bias and misrepresentations of vulnerable populations. I will conclude with some practical suggestions for researchers to take into consideration as they embark on this work.

The Berkeley Distinguished Lectures in Data Science, co-hosted by the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) and the Berkeley Division of Data Sciences, features faculty doing visionary research that illustrates the character of the ongoing data, computational, inferential revolution.  In this inaugural Fall 2017 "local edition," we bring forward Berkeley faculty working in these areas as part of enriching the active connections among colleagues campus-wide.  All campus community members are welcome and encouraged to attend.  Arrive at 3:30pm for tea, coffee, and discussion.


Lisa Garcia Bedolla

Professor, Political Science & Education

Professor García Bedolla’s research focuses on how marginalization and inequality structure the political and educational opportunities available to members of ethnoracial groups, with a particular emphasis on the intersections of race, class, and gender. Her current projects include an analysis of how technology can facilitate voter mobilization among voters of color in California and a historical exploration of the race, gender, and class inequality at the heart of the founding of California's public school system.

She is author of Fluid Borders: Latino Power, Identity, and Politics in Los Angeles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) which won the American Political Science Association's (APSA) Ralph Bunche Award and a best book award from APSA's Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section, and Latino Politics (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009), winner of a best book award from APSA's Latino Caucus. She also is co-author (with Melissa Michelson) of Mobilizing Inclusion: Transforming the Electorate through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012) which won APSA's Ralph Bunche Award and a best book award from APSA's Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section. Her work has appeared in numerous academic journals and edited volumes. She has received fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, UCLA's Institute of American Cultures, the James Irvine Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Huntington Library, and the American Political Science Association.