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How Data Scientists Are Serving Humanity

  • Improving College Graduation Rates
  • Protecting the World’s Fish From Poaching and Over-Fishing
  • Reducing Unemployment Rates
  • Helping a Drought-Ridden California Water District Forecast Demand
  • Understanding Predictive Factors and Causes of Homelessness

Anyone who has data science skills and is interested in getting real-world, practical experience in this field could do so by volunteering at a non-profit organization. There are multiple non-profits that are focused exclusively on using data science techniques to solve the world’s most pressing social and other problems. There are also non-profits that exist to solve specific problems and are employing data scientists to do so.

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Data scientists can sometimes serve non-profits in much the same way that they serve for-profit industries, although there can also be crucial differences. The main goal is always helping key stakeholders solve problems using data. The non-profits that data scientists are able to help most easily are those that have usable data available to work with. Let’s take a look at 5 of the ways that data scientists are helping non-profit organizations to solve humanity’s most compelling problems.

1. Improving College Graduation Rates

College dropout rates are surprisingly high, with nearly half of all US college students dropping out before obtaining their degrees. Advisors at John Jay College of Criminal Justice collaborated with Datakind, a non-profit organization, to see if they could use predictive modeling to better understand which students are in danger of dropping out. They found that there is a relationship between a student’s GPA and that student’s likelihood of leaving school. The number of classes failed or dropped was another important indicator. They will be able to use this information to be more proactive about improving graduation rates from their institution.

2. Protecting the World’s Fish From Poaching and Over-Fishing

The world’s fish populations are declining at an alarming rate, a situation which threatens the health of the entire global food chain. Data scientists working with a program at the University of Chicago have determined to apply data science to the situation to see if they will be able to create a fishing risk framework that could help to solve the problems. They are currently working towards their goal of creating a data-driven, open-source tool that will help authorities track and monitor illegal fishing activities.

3. Reducing Unemployment Rates

Data scientists at the University of Chicago are exploring ways to use predictive analytics to research the unemployment situation in Cascais, Portugal. Their goal is to reduce unemployment by implementing a recommendation system that can match job seekers’ skills with local employer demands.

4. Helping a Drought-Ridden California Water District Forecast Demand

In times of drought, responsible water allocation is crucial. Datakind was able to help California’s drought-ridden Moulton Niguel Water District analyze 12 years worth of data relating to previous water usage. Patterns in the data revealed times when demand for water was expected to exceed supply, which allowed district authorities to better allocate water resources.

5. Understanding Predictive Factors and Causes of Homelessness

Datakind was able to help two separate organizations compile and learn from their data relating to homelessness. They performed a useful study on what issues people asked for help with at the organization called Citizens Advice prior to seeking assistance from another organization called Mungos Bay Broadway that helps with issues of homelessness. The researchers discovered correlations between people who asked for help with housing, immigration, and travel and those who later went on to seek assistance due to homelessness.

These data scientists are accomplishing important work and making a significant impact in the lives of the people they are serving. If even more data scientists could dedicate a fraction of their spare time for volunteering to work with non-profit organizations, it would make a huge difference in making the world a more equitable place for all humanity. The list above gives an overview of 5 interesting ways that data science is currently being used in the non-profit sector, but there are countless other ways that data scientists could help non-profit organizations meet their objectives.


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