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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:


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.