DSSGx, the Turing's UK Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship, is looking for project partners who want to tackle critical social challenges and believe that data can improve their operations and interventions with tangible social impact.
As a project partner, you get:
- a strong data science team that cares about your challenges
- a prototype solution (report, predictive model and software) that helps solve your problem using data science tools
- exposure and training – for the project at hand but also how to tackle these projects technically as well as through validation.
Each data science team consists of 3-4 students (undergraduate/graduate) and post-graduates within 2 years of graduation. Their academic strength is complemented by professional technical mentors and project managers. The latter ensure that the time is used efficiently, the deliverables for each week are achieved and that the organisation’s goals are met.
How to apply
Projects must be submitted via our application portal. You will need to register.
Deadline: Monday 24 February 2020 at 12 noon.
Project quality - a solvable problem
Some problems are too big or too difficult to solve in a summer. Few potential partners have pitched unsolvable problems, but when they do, we can usually get around it by focusing on one aspect of the problem. For example, whilst DSSG cannot solve poverty in three months, we can help alleviate it by reducing corruption, homelessness, lead poisoning, and school dropout rates and increasing quality of foster agencies, insurance rates, and social services interactions, among other things.
A challenging problem. We are looking for projects that will challenge three or four data science fellows for the duration of the fellowship, providing them with an opportunity to learn. Challenging problems encourage teamwork, spawn creative solutions and play a key role in DSSG’s ability to “produce data scientists with strong skills in solving real-world problems and an understanding, excitement, and passion for solving problems with social impact.”
Social good - an important problem with social impact
We make a substantial investment in each project, not only financially (typically over £100k) but also opportunistically (when we choose to do a project, we choose not to do another project). We would like to dedicate our limited resources to substantial problems.
Each project must meet an operational need for the partner organisation and must have a tangible connection to “social good.”
We would decline a hedge fund if it asked us to help get bigger returns or an NGO that asked us to purely analyse historical data that have little relevance or actionable impact today. All else being equal, we value projects that help more people over fewer people and that solve chronic problems over temporary problems.
Past projects have been in areas such as public health, education, economic development, disaster response, and the environment, but other projects qualify.
A motivated, capable and committed partner
No project can succeed without a fully invested project partner. Project partners understand the problem, they have subject-matter expertise, and they ultimately decide how our work is used. Being practitioners, our partners often look at the problem differently than we do, which is important for solving tough problems. We need them to provide insight into the problem and to guide us as we develop a solution.
This demands a lot from partners. It often requires partners stretching themselves and asking themselves hard questions. It also requires time. We are looking for partners who will help scope the project before the fellowship, give a presentation about their work in the second week of the fellowship, speak at least once a week with the team throughout the fellowship, and use our work after the fellowship.
In our experience, this level of engagement usually requires an individual within the partner organisation to dedicate around 20% of their time over the summer to supporting the team. This is not a small ask, especially for non-profit and government organisations with resource constraints or small staff numbers.
Equality, diversity and inclusion is a core value of the Turing and this summer programme. We expect the partner organisation to share this value and strive for a diverse team to work with us.
Data readiness - appropriate, relevant data
Getting the data we need is almost always the biggest challenge. Important things go unmeasured or unrecorded or, more commonly, cannot be shared. Many of our projects involve medical, educational, and other sensitive information. Getting lawyers to agree on data and code sharing can take months. We try to be flexible — partners have anonymized data (while keeping it useful at an individual level), conducted background checks, hired our fellows as (unpaid) interns, and required us to do our analyses on their internal computer systems (remotely) — while maintaining a spirit of openness.
For example, we have released code, but not data for the Homelesslink Partnership. We expect our partners to provide us with all the relevant data they have so we can build a solution that is appropriate, effective, and easily deployed.
Diversity of projects
One of DSSG’s goals is to inspire the third sector to adopt data-driven solutions. By choosing a diverse set of projects, we can demonstrate the value of analytics to the whole sector. A diverse set of projects also draws a richer pool of fellows, helps keep people interested, and leads to the cross-pollination of ideas.
Successful organisations will receive an invitation to scoping sessions early February and a template data sharing agreement. The purpose of the scoping sessions is to clarify the scope of the project through a conversation.
This will allow a clearer judgement of the project against the selection criteria. In particular this achieves a fairer judgment of projects from organisations with less in-house capability.
If an organisation submits multiple projects, the scoping session will narrow this down to one or two projects for the review panel that will take place early March. The panel will consist of a mixture of professional data scientist and academics.
Successful organisations are notified shortly after the panel in mid-March.
Frequently asked questions
What are the start and end dates for the 2020 Fellowship?
The Turing DSSG 2020 will begin 15th June and end 5th September 2020.
How specific should the project proposal be?
We would rather you provide a few project ideas than one detailed, specific, project proposal. We can then work with you to better understand the potential projects to select the one that best fits the fellowship.
What kind of organisations do you work with?
Project partners are typically, but not always, non-profits and government organisations. However we also work with corporations and startups with a social mission.
What criteria do you use to select project partners?
Project partners come with some idea of a problem they want help in tackling, data they can provide to solve that problem, and resources they can devote to collaborate with us over the summer. Ideal partners will:
- Have an important problem with high social impact. We want real world problems as opposed to the more theoretical research questions.
- Give us access to data they have collected that is useful in solving the problem. It’s less about the size of the data, more about having the right data to solve the problem. We don’t release the data publicly, and we comply with the security and privacy procedures necessary, but we need to be able to access the data remotely.
- Provide expertise about the problem area to the team of Fellows. We are not experts in all areas of ‘social good’ and expect partners to be the experts to help us understand the data and the problem.
- Be likely to implement and use the work we produce over the summer. We want our work to be used, and having committed partners is critical for that to happen. We want to make an impact and work with partners who can best use our skills and resources to make that happen.
What areas of ‘social good’ do you care about?
All. In the past we’ve worked in various areas such as public health, medicine, homelessness prevention etc.
How concrete a problem do I need to propose?
We can help you define and scope the project. There will be time before the Fellowship starts to refine projects and discuss data needs. You can also propose several project ideas and we can help narrowing them down to the one we think will be the best fit for the Fellowship.
Does the project partner need to be located near a Fellowship location?
No, in 2019 partners were from all over the world. In person collaboration is great, but so is Slack, Zoom, Skype and/or Hangout. However, we do expect project partners to visit in person at the beginning and end of the Fellowship and also provide support during the 12 week project.
What do I get as a project partner?
The opportunity to work with a team of highly qualified and motivated Data Science Fellows, led by an experienced mentor for 12 weeks to solve the problem we identify together.
What are some examples of projects?
WMCA (West Midlands Combined Authority) is a cluster of 18 local authorities and three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) collaborating on projects such as transport, jobs growth, industrial strategy etc to deliver their vision of a flourishing West Midlands.
DSSG 2019 worked with WMCA to find a better way to measure equity of access to transportation services.
Cochrane is a non-profit, global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and people interested in health. DSSG 2019 Fellows worked to build a model capable of triaging new studies into appropriate systematic review subjects. Public contracts are essential to deliver goods and services people care about and depend on, such as schools, medicines and roads.
Paraguay’s National Directorate of Public Contracting (DNCP) provides an online platform to publish public tender processes. DNCP worked with DSSG to find and reduce potential anomalies in public tender documents and improve the quality of public procurement.
Read more about our 2019 projects.
Quotes from our 2019 project partners
"Every day Homeless Link’s StreetLink project receives new information about people seen sleeping rough; we knew there was potentially much more we could do to learn from the data we receive and apply it to improving our processes, but didn’t have the expertise or resource to do this.
Becoming a project partner with DSSG presented us with a unique and exciting opportunity to analyse our StreetLink data and develop models to help improve our systems and ultimately to provide better outcomes for people sleeping rough.” Gareth Thomas, Senior Information Manager, Homeless Link
“From a personal perspective, the DSSG process was superbly rewarding for WMCA and for my team in particular. We loved working with such enthusiastic and incredibly professional people.It has enabled us to push forward a deep analysis of transport in the region to highlight where it poorly serves sections of the local population.
This data will be absolutely vital for us in putting together policies that have a real impact in alleviating social isolation and improving access to services. It is this kind of analysis that ensures the people who need affordable public transport are actually getting it. The team rapidly understood the problem, prototyped solutions and built a worthwhile tool.” Stuart Lester, Data Innovation Lead, WMCA
“DSSG has allowed us to take a different look at our daily work, from an unprecedented perspective in our country’s public procurement system. Through data science we will be able to make smarter and more accurate decisions that allow us to prioritise resources, optimise allocation of labour and reduce the likelihood of corruption.” Pablo Seitz, National Director, DNCP, Paraguay