Impact and Outcomes
Throughout the first three years of the data science-focused research networking series, faculty have presented to their colleagues, using their presentations as vehicles to share recent projects; to solicit new ideas, approaches, and methods for works in progress; to explore research challenges faced; and to find new collaborators.
The sessions also provide an ideal venue for announcing and promoting upcoming events on both Northwestern campuses and in the Chicagoland area. Each group generally includes representatives from the Office of Research Development, the Office of Foundation Relations, and Corporate Engagement who routinely share upcoming calls for proposals for external funding and who use their vantage points to suggest faculty connections across disciplines.
Based on the results of end-of-year feedback surveys, it is clear that faculty value this type of collaboration mechanism and view it as a differentiator for Northwestern:
- “This is one of the best collaboration engines on campus.”
- “This is a wonderful effort, and I think it is one of the things that makes Northwestern special – always trying to identify the next big research area.”
- “I am very glad to be connected to a community of researchers whom I likely would not have met otherwise. I have found significant overlap in research interests with faculty in a wide range of departments, and I look forward to future conversations and potential collaborations with them.”
- “There are few opportunities for us to interact across departments and schools. We know many PIs of course, but we do not know what we do not know. This year I have learned a lot through these lunchtime meetings, and this will no doubt translate into collaborations in the near future and is leading to new and interesting conversations.”
- “I think the luncheons sped up interactions that may have happened much more slowly or been dropped entirely. They formalized the sharing of information.”
- “This was an especially valuable experience as a young faculty member. It is hard to make connections across departmental barriers, and this luncheon series helped connect me with several potential collaborators.”
Over the past three years, faculty participants have reported that connections and collaborations made during these luncheons have led to guest lecturing in other group members’ classes, designing new interdisciplinary undergraduate course modules, submitting graduate cluster proposals, co-advising graduate students, co-hosting workshops and conferences, and co-authoring publications. Group members have also been energized to collaborate beyond the luncheons to bring research concepts to the larger community through symposia on topics such as micro-grids and water in Israel and the Middle East, a Domain Dinner on neuroscience, and participation in an international conference on computational social sciences.
A subset of faculty from the 2019-2020 Food-Energy-Water Nexus and Addressing Climate Change groups was selected to receive funding after participation in the Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs Idea Incubation Workshop with their project entitled “Disproportionate Effects of Environmental Challenges.”
On a larger scale, research collaborations fostered through the luncheon series have led to several submissions of grant proposals to external agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) on topics such as quantitative biology, water quality monitoring, sustainable urban systems, and data science corps.
Of particular note is the award of an NSF Convergence Accelerator grant for the Northwestern Open Access to Court Records Initiative (NOACRI), which has recently expanded into SCALES – OKN (Systematic Content Analysis of Litigation EventS Open Knowledge Network). NSF is planning to announce Phase 2 recipients in early September 2020. If awarded, the NOACRI- SCALES team will receive an additional $5 million over the next two years. The grant proposal was directly inspired by a faculty presentation at a Computational Social Science – Law luncheon in 2018. A group of 17 Northwestern professors from Data Science, Computer Science, Social Science, Journalism, and Law is focused on building a community and equipping it with the tools it needs to understand and engage with the workings of the federal judiciary from the beginning to the end of every single case. To illuminate the full picture, the project is linking court data to a significant amount of other public data about the litigants, judges, lawyers, and courts. The project’s goal over the next two years is to build an AI-powered data platform that makes the details of the federal judiciary and insights into how it works available and accessible to every single person.
- Northwestern Now article (July 9, 2020): “Fair justice systems need open data access – Making court records publicly available will enable statistical analysis”
- Video describing project
- SCIENCE article (July 10, 2020): “How to build a more open justice system”