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Cornell to Launch Center for Data Science for Improved Decision Making with $1.5 Million Grant

A team of computer scientists at Cornell University is looking to ensure that data management systems are responsible and used for the public benefit.

Funded by a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Transdisciplinary Research in Principles of Data Science (TRIPODS) Program, the team has formed the Center for Data Science for Improved Decision Making.

The center will focus on topics including:

  • How to guarantee privacy and ensure that decision-making systems are not biased by characteristics such as rage, gender or age. The team plans to explore methods to give management systems the ability to detect and correct such biases autonomously;
  • Learning about the structure and processes of social networks and connections between people to inform decision making and identify fake news or disease epidemics earlier to mitigate the damage they cause;
  • Researching interventions based on user histories to offer recommendations and suggestions related to a range of issues, from healthcare to the polarization of user populations;
  • Quantifying the uncertainty of predictions, particularly those with consequences for humans; and
  • Deep learning, which is, according to a Cornell news release, "widely used but still not well understood. There is ambiguity about what these systems actually learn."

Team members include Kilian Weinberger, associate professor of computer science; Jon Kleinberg, the Tisch University Professor of Computer Science; Steve Strogatz, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics; Giles Hooker, associate professor of biological statistics and computational biology; and David Shmoys, the Laibe/Acheson Professor of Business Management and Leadership Studies.

The project isn't the only one at Cornell looking to add a layer of responsibility to decisions made by machines using big data. The university announced last month that a project led in part by Cornell scientists had received $3 million, also from the NSF, to study the ethics of big data decision making.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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