Introductions

The Data Science Ethics course kicked off this week, and it has been a blast to get started! Our course roster is near finalized to a small select group of about 15 students who will deep dive into a variety of topics around data science ethics (see the syllabus and schedule for more info).

The participants come from a variety of majors including statistics & data science, computer science, physics, anthropology, education, ethics, policy & economics. Many have already had internship experience at human rights groups, federal agencies, social media companies and developing automated technologies. For me, it has been exciting to start to get to know this young cohort of future leaders in their areas, and you will also get to hear from some of them over the coming weeks as they contribute to this blog.

Why are we here?

I had many motivations for creating this class, and have asked my students to share their own as well. I summarize our collective goals through a few of their quotes (which have been kept anonymous). First and foremost:

“I hope to be able to foster a community that is concerned with data ethics, and further advance this field through shared interest and curiosity.”

I sincerely hope this course helps foster this community both within Yale, but also worldwide as students move on to their next endeavors.

“I feel it is crucial for me to understand the ethical implications of my work before leaving Yale”

One of the exciting aspects of being a professor is the knowledge that I am helping inform the world’s future citizens and leaders, and I would be remiss if I let students graduate without prompting them to think about the impact of their work.

“I want to understand the ethical questions underlying the practice of data science, reason through my own stance on these issues, and be able to communicate these both quantitatively and to lay and technical audiences.”

As with any important issue, communication with everyone from the general public to other academics to policymakers is crucial in order to make an impact. I hope that we are able to not only learn about data science ethics but also learn to communicate effectively with decision-makers about the impact of the technology we help develop and use.

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