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Conferences and workshops

Federal Interagency Conference on Social Science and Big Data

About the series

This event is open only to federal employees. Registration is required.

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Interagency Workgroup, comprised of social and behavioral scientists from more than a dozen federal agencies, is sponsoring a virtual conference designed to bring together federal agency perspectives and experiences with applying big data to address social, behavioral, cultural, and economic issues. This is a complex area of emerging importance, with many facets including both technical and ethical issues. The conference will bring together social scientists, including sociologists, behavioral scientists, psychologists, risk assessors, risk communicators, and potentially others to discuss these issues.

Through a variety of presentations and panel discussions, we expect to:

  1. Discuss new types of big data that are especially relevant to exploring social science questions.
  2. Discuss ethical and legal issues associated with using big data in a social science context and any special concerns with using such data to support federal agency decisions and actions.
  3. Improve understanding of what big data means in the context of social science.
  4. Discuss technical issues and challenges to using big data in the social sciences. 

Outcomes of this workshop may include a summary of agency perspectives and experiences using big social science data, development of a list or repository of social science datasets with associated experts and contacts, guidance on ethical use of big social science data, gap analysis and complementary opportunity analysis, and/or a commentary paper.

Due to the ongoing risks from COVID-19, we have decided to hold the conference virtually. This conference is intended for a federal audience, with some presentations provided by non-federal experts who can provide perspectives on computational social science and big data. 


Day 1 (Wednesday, September 30): 


Welcome and overview

  • Bryan Hubbell, EPA
  • Bill Riley, NIH
  • Arthur Lupia, NSF, conference host


Empowering Social Science to Understand and Ameliorate Major Challenges of Human Society

  • Gary King, Harvard

2:00 – 2:15



Linking social science data to big data platforms

Moderator:  Arthur Lupia, NSF

  1. Modernizing data and encouraging social science within the U.S. Census Bureau - Misty Heggeness, US Census Bureau
  2. Modernizing crime data reporting: linking law enforcement incident-based crime data to state and local indicators of public health and quality of life - Kim Martin, DOJ
  3. Linking disparate data sources to advance environmental health sciences - Chris Duncan, NIEHS
  4. Collecting and integrating patient-reported outcomes with electronic health records - Chun-Ju (Janey) Hsiao, AHRQ
  5. Educational data - Anthony Kelly, George Mason University                                                    

4:00 – 4:15


4:15 – 4:45 - Interfacing between small and big data: Social interactions and educational inequality

  • Rebecca Johnson, Dartmouth College

4:45 – 5:00

Day 1 wrap up

Day 2 (Thursday, October 1):                                                               

12:00 – 12:10

Welcome and day 1 recap

12:10 – 1:00

Lunch and learn presentation on big data tools for social sciences

  • Frauke Kreuter, University of Maryland

1:00 – 1:15


1:15 – 2:00

Keynote presentation: "NOAA Big Data and Social Science: Ensuring Public Safety and American Prosperity in the 21st Century" 

  • Tim Gallaudet, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.) Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere / Deputy NOAA Administrator

2:00 – 3:45

Ethics of big data, Part 1

Moderator: Anne Weaver, EPA

  1. When the Legitimacy of Data Comes Undone - danah boyd, Microsoft Research
  2. Privacy & Confidentiality: Perspectives from the Intersection of Big Data & Environmental Health Studies - Julia Lane, NYU
  3. New Approaches to Data Access and Use - Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA

3:45 - 4:00


4:00 – 5:00

Ethics of big data, Part 2

Moderator:  Bryan Hubbell, EPA 

  1. Algorithms/AI - Aaron Roth, U. of Pennsylvania
  2. Environmental Epidemiology and Big Data - Ana Rappold, EPA                   

5:00 – 5:15

Day 2 wrap up

Day 3 (Friday, October 2):                                                               

Welcome and day 2 recap


Personally generated data

Moderator: Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA

  1. Modeling Personally Generated Health-Related Data: Dynamic, Temporally Dense, Highly Contextualized—and Messy - Donna Spruijt-Metz, USC
  2. Volunteered geographic information for managing recreation on public lands- Spencer Wood, U. of Washington
  3. Human Mobility Data, Recreation and Water Quality - Nate Merrill, EPA
  4. Participant-generated Data in the Era of the Internet of Things - Wendy Nilsen, NSF




Promise and Perils of Social Media Data

Moderator:  Angela Moore, DOJ 

  1. Using Crowd-sourced Data in Public Lands Recreation Monitoring - Eric White, USFS
  2. Harnessing Social Media Data in the Face of Environmental Uncertainty - Sonya Sachdeva, USFS
  3. Privacy & Ethics in a World of Volunteered Data - Katie Shilton, U. of Maryland
  4. Health misinformation on social media: measuring impact and developing responses - Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, NIH/NCI


Conference Wrap up

Moderator:  Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA

  1. Sharing of perspectives – what has changed?
  2. Actions we can take to increase/improve use of big data                                                       

Related agencies

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Institutes of Health

Past events in this series