Funded Projects

Through the Year of Data and Society Funding Opportunity, we're pleased to be supporting projects that are interdisciplinary, that involve many parts of our University and broader community, and that focus on societal implications of data and the use of data for the public good.

Read more about the funded projects:

Addressing Water Affordability and Governance Transparency in the Pittsburgh Region with Publicly Available Data

Marcela González Rivas (GSPIA), Caitlin Shroering (Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Outreach, Research, and Education, University of Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory)

This project will build an understanding of the elements and characteristics of “good” water governance. The research team will conduct interviews with key actors in the water sector, gathering data about how water activists, officials, industry representatives and researchers characterize good water governance. This data will complement insights gained through a detailed review of academic, human rights, and advocacy literature on water governance. In collaboration with Women for a Healthy Environment, the project team will produce “report cards” of the region’s water authorities and create distilled information about water governance that can be disseminated to community organizations. The program team will also share their findings of the interview data collection and their process of locating, requesting, and using publicly available data for water research at the Water Collaboratory’s “Water in a Changing World” lunch discussion series at Pitt.

Algorithmic Fairness in Practice: Judge Discretion and the Pennsylvania Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument

Colin Allen and Dasha Pruss (History and Philosophy of Science)

Evidence-based sentencing, a movement which advocates for grounding sentencing decisions in empirical data, often presents recidivism risk assessment algorithms as a strategy for remediating racial biases in the criminal legal system. However, there is growing concern about the potential harms of risk assessment. In this research project, the project team will conduct a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the impacts of the Pennsylvania Sentence Risk Assessment tool, which was deployed in state courts in July 2020 and is one of a handful of instruments in the country to incorporate recidivism risk in statewide sentencing decisions. In particular, the team aims to understand how algorithmic recommendations interact with judge discretion, which is ultimately what affects the lives of criminal defendants and should inform how risk assessment tools are validated.

Black Voices in Computing

Rosta Farzan, Janet Majekodunmi, Shailey P Gulrajani, Chelsea Gunn, and Dmitriy Babichenko (School of Computing and Information)

The goal of this project is to address the important challenge of race, inequalities, and injustices in computing by developing an exhibit that highlights the voice of Black scholars in computing. Through a novel lens of an interactive exhibit, the project aims to address the challenge of race and injustices in the field of computing by (1) systematically collect data and document knowledge about Black scholars in the computing; (2) bringing attention to the significance of the contribution of the Black scholars in the field; (3) creating a public space to visibly communicate the importance of diversity to our community, and particularly to the under-represented members of our community; (4) by engaging undergraduate students from the underrepresented group in this research project, we aim to empower them in being influential members of the community, encourage them to pursue research and higher education in the field of computing.

Careers in Language Data: How to prepare our language students for the data-focused job future

Na-Rae Han and Dan Villarreal (Department of Linguistics)

This award will support a symposium titled “Careers in Language Data: How to prepare our language students for the data-focused job future.” Through this event, attendees will learn about the roles that language experts are increasingly playing in the technology industry. The event will present concrete paths for language majors and language departments in their pursuit of getting graduates ready for careers in the language data industry. Through the symposium, students and faculty will understand the data skills needed for this career preparation and provide a space for discussion about how curriculum and advising can support these data skills.

Complementing the Engineering Curriculum with Data for Social Good

Amin Rahimian (Swanson School of Engineering)

This project will support the development of instructional materials that will be delivered as Engineering elective entitled “Data for Social Good”. The curriculum will engage students in a critical study of contemporary topics at the intersection of AI, data, and society including fairness, accountability, transparency, and privacy issues. Engineers broadly, and industrial engineers in particular, are often in positions to shape society through their designs. The curriculum will equip students with tools to think through the societal consequences of their designs and empower them to influence large-scale sociotechnical systems of the future. The instructional materials will also be made available in an open repository for adaptation and adoption by other instructors within and outside of Engineering.

Cultivating Critical Data Literacies for Teaching and Learning Through Praxis

Veena Vasudevan (School of Education), Tinukwa Boulder (School of Education)

Through a lecture series and curriculum development, this project will build critical data literacies, or the ability to deconstruct digital data and understand how data gets collected, interpreted, represented, storied, and marketed. The team will invite scholars who work  at the intersection of data, technology, society, and equity to give virtual talks that will be widely accessible to students and faculty and recorded for longer-term use.  As a follow-up to these events, the team will build openly available modules on critical data literacies that connect the lectures with materials like listening guides, learning activities, and a reading list.

Curriculum for Introduction to Data Literacy for All Through Applications

Konstantinos Pelechrinis and Prashant Krishnamurthy (School of Computing and Information)

This project will produce an introductory data science curriculum that will be openly available and adaptable for integration in courses across the University. The curriculum will use engaging applications and fields, like movies, music, transportation, and sports, to build understandings of probability, uncertainty, causality, correlation, seasonality, and data-driven decision making. This curriculum development project will produce short modules that will introduce various data science/literacy concepts, with minimal to no pre-requisites. These modules will be available asynchronously online to the whole Pitt community. The team will also hold workshops throughout using a flipped classroom setting, where students that have watched the modules will come in and present/discuss/ask questions about the modules using their own application from their field of interest.


Robin Leaf (School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences)

The Data@Pitt event will support Pitt staff members interested in learning more about available data analytics tools and datasets at Pitt.. This event aligns with the Year of Data and Society as it will provide a space to support learning about technologies, tools, and opportunities that involve data. Most importantly, this event would provide stories and real-life examples of data usage to all staff members within the Pitt community. The groups encouraged to attend will be staff with limited access or experience with data analytics tools and faculty who hold administrative roles. This event ideally would serve as the 'kick-off' to a user group (or multiple groups) at Pitt that will connect data scientists and analysts with staff in other roles who have day-to-day contact with data.

Data and Information Equity in Homewood 

Elise Silva (English Department), Khirsten L. Scott, Ph.D. (English Department, Founder of HYPE Media)

This project brings together HYPE (Homewood Youth Power Engaged) Media, the Community Engagement Center in Homewood, and scholars and community members who are engaged in social work, Black rhetorics, information science, community-engaged learning, Wikipedia, and radical knowledge equity. The project aims to provide community workshops and opportunities for youth to compose and revise narratives about the Homewood neighborhood. The project addresses neighborhood histories and perceptions by engaging youth in critical analysis of existing narratives about their neighborhood, teaching them how to use data, information, and digital media to advance their own counter-narratives.

Data Journalism and Media Literacy Panel Discussion

Jamaica Jones, Emily Keith, Shalani Dilinika Jayamanne Mohottige, Sneha Vaidhyam (School of Computing and Information)

This award supports a panel discussion and reading group focused on the role of data across media and journalism ecosystems. The events will engage participants of all backgrounds in a generative exchange about misinformation, the role of the media as information gatekeepers, and the use of data as both a tool and a weapon in the age of online misinformation. The panel discussion and reading group will foster data literacy skills, encouraging participants to critically evaluate the data that we consume through online information environments.

Developing a Data Science for Social Justice Curriculum at Pitt 

Sera Linardi (GSPIA), Robert Gradeck (University Center for Social and Urban Research), Ron Idoko (Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion), Brett Say (Pitt Honors College)

The project will develop curricular materials to equip students passionate about social justice issues to work with public interest technologies and civic data. The partners on this grant, the Center for Analytical Approaches for Social Innovation (CAASI), Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC), University Honors College (UHC) and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), will draw on their experience in advising and supporting student-led projects and conducting independent research to develop, deliver and refine curricular materials. These materials will prepare students to understand and account for community dynamics in their work, develop socially-responsible research and data practices, discern the opportunities and challenges that can come from working with technology and civic data, and implement projects that hold benefits for both community partners and students.

DHRX Residency Program Seed Grant

Alison Langmead (Department of History of Art and Architecture and School of Computing and Information), Kate Joranson (University Library System), Chelsea Gunn (School of Computing and Information), and Annette Vee (Department of English)

The DHRX Residency Program Seed Grant project will design and instantiate a series of ongoing residencies that will serve as a structured opportunity to grow the offerings of the DHRX: Digital Humanities Research initiative and to increase university-wide understanding of, and engagement with, the role of computing and data in the interpretive disciplines. The funds will support planning sessions, facilitated by members of the Pitt community, resulting in a design document for the DHRX Residency Program. The project planning team will share plans for the DHRX Residency Program with a wider public in late Spring 2022, with an outward-facing colloquium hosted by the Humanities Center

Enriching Citizen-Science Data Using Context, Feedback, and Community-Oriented Communication

Abhishek Viswanathan (School of Computing and Information), Amy Babay (School of Computing and Information), Rosta Farzan (School of Computing and Information)

This project builds on research that has involved citizen scientists in the Pittsburgh region in air quality data collection. Through the Year of Data and Society award, the project team will engage citizen scientists in data analysis to foster increased understanding of the air quality data and how it can be understood to advocate for change. The team will host a series of data analysis, data visualization, and data storytelling workshops to empower members of the community to find alternative ways to make sense of environmental data using freely available tools and art-based approaches.

Exploring the Churchill Valley Greenway Through Visual and Scientific Data Collection

Sarah Moore (Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Film and Media Studies Department), Patrick Shirey (Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geology and Environmental Science)

This project focuses on the 150-acre Churchill Valley Greenway and the human impact on this land, the Chalfant Run, and its tributaries. This project will involve students and community members in the collection of data of the greenway’s plant species as well as the Chalfant Run tributaries and fish populations. Videos will be made of every plant species, creating a visual database that can be used for identification and storytelling purposes. A film and storytelling team will use this data to visually tell the story of the greenway’s ecosystem and the human impact on the place. Through film, the team will show the way the water conditions are changing, track the movement and growth of fish populations, and promote the succession of the plant species.

Forbes Hacks 

Hayden Feddock (Undergraduate; Forbes Hall Engineering LLC), Samil Paul (Undergraduate; Forbes Hall Engineering LLC)

On November 13th, the Forbes Hall Resident Assistants (RAs) will host the Forbes Hall Signature Program, Forbes Hacks, and the Year of Data and Society award will support this event. Forbes Hacks is a hackathon that challenges and expands student and faculty perspectives, specifically attuning the engineering community to the ideas enclosed in the Year of Data & Society mission. The design competition hosts recognize that it is crucial that the University’s aspiring engineers realize the integral -- and often invasive -- role that data plays in our lives and in the technologies we use and design. The Forbes Hacks event will charge these engineers to ideate and reflect on how to drive the collection and use of data in a manner that is ethical and exhibits an intrinsic respect for privacy, transparency, and diversity.

Infusing Data Science into the Health Humanities and the Humanities into the Data Sciences: Ethical Use, Social Implications, and Educational Impact

Michael Deem (Public Health/Human Genetics), Stephanie Eckstrom (Master's of Social Work Program, Pitt-Bradford), Bridget Keown (Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program), Jane Liebschutz (Department of Medicine), Kathy Mayle (Community College of Allegheny County), Jonathan Perlman (Palliative and Supportive Institute ), Susan Wieczorek (Department of Communication, Pitt- Johnstown 

This award will support several virtual and in-person events featuring speakers who are applying data-informed research to the health humanities, advancing  narrative as data in health research and policy, and exploring the ethics and social implications of technologies. The project team will convene a two-year seminar of faculty, trainees, and both graduate and undergraduate students to engage in a critical analysis of the issues raised by the speakers.

Latinx Data: Historical Civil Rights Advocacy and Contemporary Intersectional Insights

Lisa Ortiz (School of Education), Gina Garcia (School of Education), Michele Reid-Vazquez (Department of Africana Studies), Ron Idoko (Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion)

This award supported an October 15 panel session featuring Dr. Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz, author of Figures of the Future: Latino Civil Rights and the Politics of Demographic Change (Princeton University Press, 2021) and Dr. Amalia Z. Daché, lead editor of Rise Up! Activism as Education (Michigan State University Press, 2019). Moderated by Dr. Lisa Ortiz (School of Education), the discussion explored the complexities of data and the Latinx community, the contemporary challenges regarding inequitable Latinx data representation, and the ways the Latinx community has created and used data as advocacy.” This event was part of LatinxConnect 2021, a virtual conference that provided a space for dialogue about Latinx identities, cultures, and contemporary issues. Read the PittNews story about the Latinx Data panel.

Making Training of Undergraduate Students to be DataJam Mentors More Equitably Available for Students in Under-Served and Under-Resourced Areas

Judy Cameron (Department of Psychiatry), Bryan Nelson (Department of Statistics), Rachel Aiyeko (Duquesne University), Shailendra Gajanan (Pitt-Bradford, Division of Management and Education)

The DataJam is a year-long data science competition for high school students to introduce, encourage, and engage young people in data science. Trained undergraduate students, who serve as DataJam mentors, are critical to the success of the program and are currently drawn from the University of Pittsburgh Oakland campus. This project will expand the reach of the DataJam mentor training to Pitt-Bradford and Duquesne University and to students interested in careers in secondary education. In addition, the project will broaden the DataJam mentor course to incorporate evidence-based and culturally-informed pedagogical strategies. Through the expanded mentorship program, the project team will be supported in their goals to offer the DataJam program to students in more high schools.

My Nature Outing

Stephen Quigley (Department of English), Cassie Quigley (School of Education), Hillary Henry (School of Education), and Holly Plank (School of Education)

My Nature Outing provides middle and high school students an ingress into environmental education and computer science. The program encourages students to first embed in nature while completing several multimodal documentation and data collection activities. During these activities, students test the affordances and constraints of different media for data collection, including photography, sound recording, and journaling. After a morning spent in the woods collecting data, students return to a classroom space where they work with code to develop a webtext that circulates their findings. The Year of Data and Society award will provide My Nature Outing with the tools and resources to support outings at eight different locations around Pittsburgh.

Open Scholarship and Research Impact Challenge

Helenmary Sheridan (Health Sciences Library System), Ryan Champagne (Office of Sponsored Programs), Dominic Bordelon (University Library System)

Open scholarship refers to the philosophy and practice of improving the reproducibility and rigor of research by sharing data, code, protocols, and results. The Open Scholarship and Research Impact Challenge will comprise a two-week calendar of events focused on giving researchers practical tools to make their research more accessible, more reproducible, more connected to the public welfare, and more in line with their personal values. Run by the Health Sciences Library System, the University Library System, and the Office of Sponsored Programs, this activity will result in the creation of readily available curriculum and teaching materials that can be reused in future programs and shared publicly for use at other institutions. It will serve as a new model for making an explicit connection between open scholarship and critical scholarly impact learning and practice.

PittPharmacy Global Health Day

Jennifer Chai (School of Pharmacy)

This award supports the PittPharmacy Global Health Day for students, faculty, and staff to promote awareness of how data, particularly in a global context, permeates our educational, governmental, health care systems, and other aspects of society. Through a keynote presentation and an interactive activity, the participants will be invited to think critically about the impact of data in global health (and global health pharmacy specifically) and encouraged to seek innovative, ethical and compassionate solutions to priority areas in global health.

The Politics of Power and Place: Giving Voice Through Curated Digital Storytelling

Jennifer Keating (Department of English)

The Power of Politics and Place: Giving Voice Through Curated Digital Storytelling is a making process that will allow students to partner with community organizations, artists and writers to co-make digital stories. This co-making process can allow an organization to succinctly link digital storytelling to their mission and evolving relationship with the community that they serve, as they harness place-based politics and culture to build meaningful relationships through communication. This project recognizes narrative as data. As the student and faculty team collaborates with organizations to share a compelling or otherwise silenced or invisible story, students can learn the power of linking a digital story to a specific place and to the specific work of the partner organization.

Promoting Data Equality by Improving Open Government Data Users’ Data Literacy

Fanghui Xiao (School of Computing and Information), Daqing He (School of Computing and Information), and David Walker (University Center for Social and Urban Research)

Governments at all levels are sharing data about our communities through open government data (OGD) portals. However, not all members of the public have the data literacy skills that would support their use of this data, resulting in “data inequality.”  Through user studies, this project will establish a comprehensive OGD literacy framework that will be used to facilitate data literacy workshop design and will inform the improvement of the interface design of data portal platforms to encourage more users to use OGD. The study will also provide a deliverable interactive OGD-literacy test tool for evaluating users' OGD-literacy. The ultimate goal of this project is to promote data equality.

Reclaiming Narratives Through Interdisciplinary Data Collection

Bridget Keown and Julie Beaulieu (​​Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program)

The Gender and Science Initiative, part of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, is dedicated to educating students across all disciplines about equitable data collection and research practices, and to recovering narratives that have been lost to the historic record and gone under-considered in health, environmental, and social sciences. This project will be used to support speakers whose work exemplifies such liberatory work. Additionally, it will support programming that will welcome faculty and students from across the University to discuss and develop revolutionary research practices that challenge disciplinary boundaries and highlight overlooked individuals and groups in the past and present.

Redressing Whiteness in a Crowdsourced Space: Networks of Support in Writing Studies

Benjamin Miller (Department of English)

Launched in 2012, the Writing Studies Tree is an open-access, crowdsourced database of academic genealogies in composition, rhetoric, and related fields. This project will redress racial and ethnic data gaps present in the database and improve the project’s participatory architecture, so as to become more inclusive in the future. Through a series of initiatives, including a workshop, focus group, data transcribe-a-thon, and updates to the database, the Writing Studies Tree will receive a large and lasting course correction, sustainably filling in areas of the disciplinary network that had previously been missing.

Responsible Use of Learning Analytics: Challenges and Opportunities 

Marcia Rapchak (School of Computing and Information), Amanda Brodish (Office of the Provost), Robert Ackerman (Center for Teaching and Learning), John Radzilowicz (Center for Teaching and Learning)

This project explores the implications of how data used in learning analytics can impact the experience of students and instructors. Through a series of workshops with invited speakers and for staff, faculty, students, and an open audience, the project team will encourage socially responsible use of data by inspiring conversation about the data provided via learning technology systems like Canvas and how to combat bias and follow ethical practices in using learning analytics.

SCREENSHOT: Silent Asia Online Annotation Tool for Teaching and Research

Kirsten A. Strayer (University Center for International Studies and Asian Studies Center)

This project will create and support an online space for students and scholars to experiment with and incorporate data analysis into close reading of film. The project seeks to make data analysis accessible, credible, and useful for film scholarship at large, as well as connect data annotation to the undergraduate film classroom. The project team will install and pilot an annotation tool for film (Mediate), supporting Pitt students as they build data analysis skills through their coursework. In addition, the team will engage the Pittsburgh silent film association, introducing its members to the tool for annotation and analysis.

Super Analytics Challenge Focused on Food Security and Hunger

Christopher Barlow and Sandra Douglas (Katz Graduate School of Business)

The award will provide support to the 2022 Super Analytics Challenge, hosted by the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. This event connects Pitt students with partners in local nonprofits, government, and business and provides a challenge to explore through data analytics. This year, the Super Analytics Challenge will use data to build an understanding of food insecurity and hunger in our region. The participants will share insights learned through the Challenge with the Pittsburgh Food Bank

Understanding Civic Resilience in Homewood and Surrounding Neighborhoods

Daren Ellerbee (Community Engagement Center in Homewood), Beth Schwanke (Pitt Cyber), Rachel Rubin (University Library System), Lara Putnam (Department of History)

This project will develop a nuanced understanding of racialized information contexts and how disinformation differentially affects communities of color, providing novel and significant data on the observed prevalence of disinformation and its effects. The project team will create an understanding of the value of digital civic spaces and how to build resilience to disinformation into them through a co-creation model. Together with community members, the team will build the Homewood Digital Civic Asset Map, which will provide in-depth data and analysis of the wealth of digital spaces used by residents, many of which are neglected by existing research. The map and analysis will help residents, neighborhood organizations, researchers, and others identify: (1) healthy digital civic spaces; (2) digital civic spaces where resiliency might be improved; (3) elements that create healthy digital civic spaces. Through this community-partnered work, the award recipients anticipate an improved understanding of the information/disinformation ecosystem that is actionable and useful to residents, researchers, and policy-makers.

Understanding Bias in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for Health Care Through an Educational Health Informatics Hackathon

Yanshan Wang (Department of Health Information Management)

This project will support the first annual Health Informatics Hackathon, an event open to all Pitt faculty and students.This event will support faculty and students in understanding data-driven, algorithmic, and human bias in big data and AI in health sciences by exploring real-world health data and by implementing and testing AI algorithms in a 4-hour practical hackathon.

Understanding Data, Digital Culture, and Disinformation: Community Outreach to Bolster Media Literacy and Democratic Resilience in the Monongahela River Valley

Jessica Ghilani (Pitt Greensburg/Pitt Disinformation Lab), Lara Putnam (History/Pitt Disinformation Lab)

In collaboration with the Pitt Disinformation Lab, this effort will pilot a community-driven public outreach program, with the potential to scale (dis)information literacy work. The effort will identify and train high-profile, involved, and influential members of small-town communities to recognize and moderate disinformation while also teaching others about how to spot it. This has the potential to be transformative to digital community spaces, which have become an increasing source of news and information for SWPA communities in the absence of local media.