Impact and Outcomes
Throughout the first four years of the data science-focused research networking sessions, 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, Corporate Engagement, INVO, and the Buffet Institute who routinely share upcoming calls for proposals for 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 four 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, submitting research grant proposals, and co-authoring publications.
Group members have 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; a Domain Dialogues on data-informed and community-engaged research in Chicagoland; 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.” Additionally, several faculty are involved with One Book One Northwestern for 2021-2022 – The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here, by geobiologist Hope Jahren.
On a larger scale, research collaborations fostered through the luncheons have led to at least 16 external grants totaling nearly $12 million, including the following:
- $5 million for an NSF Convergence Accelerator grant entitled SCALES – OKN (Systematic Content Analysis of Litigation EventS Open Knowledge Network), whose team is composed of computer and data scientists, legal scholars, journalists, and policy experts who are developing a suite of tools to enable access to court records and analytics and building 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. The original grant proposal was directly inspired by a faculty presentation at a Computational Social Science – Law luncheon in 2018.
- $900,000 from the NSF to establish a Metropolitan Chicago Data-Science Corps (MCDC), which is an interdisciplinary partnership between universities, myriad community organizations, and two expansion colleges that aims to strengthen the national data science workforce by integrating community needs with academic learning. MCDC will help local non-profit organizations take advantage of increasing data volume and data complexity, train data science students in how to effectively apply their academic knowledge to real data challenges in the non-profit sector, and exchange data science curriculum and expertise among these universities and with local community colleges