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Data for Good! 

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" “The DataDive was a great experience and I would strongly encourage other data enthusiasts to have a go. I felt a real sense of accomplishment at being able to put my skills to good use for a charity and learned some great new visualisation techniques from others on my team. And, even though I had spent almost the entire weekend analysing data, I felt a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for my work when I came back to the office on Monday.”  Louise Mc Grath-Lone, Research associate ( Children’s Policy Research Unit, GOS Institute of Child Health)
" The DataDive was a great opportunity to refresh my perspective and give me an insight into techniques and ideas that I would never have come across in my own research. Meeting people from a variety of disciplines encouraged me to follow different approaches, and also provided a chance do explore the world of data analysis beyond academia. This, as well as the genuine contribution we were able to make to the charities involved, made the weekend a resounding success in my opinion. James Farr, PhD Student (UCL Physics and Astronomy)

Over the weekend of 25 -26th November 2017, the UCL eResearch Domain and UCL Grand Challenge of Transformative Technology joined Elsevier Foundation in sponsoring a DataDive organised by DataKindUK, a charity that enables social sector organisations to benefit from advances in data science so they can make better decisions and have greater social impact.

Ahead of the event, DataKindUK’s volunteer Data Ambassadors worked with the three charities:  the One Campaign, FairShare and Christian Aid - to help identify their most pressing questions, prepare the data for analysis and manage the analysis over the weekend.    

" ‘Being a data ambassador helped me to develop my project management skills and also gave me great insights to the data analysis process. I think it’ll be very useful both in my everyday role within UCL and my potential career development.  It also been very inspiring and exhilarating to be a part of ONE team and to contribute in their fight against corruption and poverty.’  Victoria Bauer, Database Developer (Dept of Geography, UCL)

The DataDive brought together volunteers with a range of technical experience and provided the opportunity for participants to develop their data science skills further. As these approaches can be applied to many fields, attendees came from across UCL – including Physics and Astronomy, Geography, Social Science – IOE, UCL Energy Institute, School of Management, Institute of Child Health, and The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. 

" “DataDive was a great event from my perspective. Not only did I get the opportunity to help charities answer interesting questions they had but I had the chance to work and talk with people from a wide range of backgrounds. I got exposure to new ideas, techniques and insights into the way in which industry-savvy data scientists approach problems. It has reaffirmed to me the direction I would like to develop my career after academia.' Tom Neeld, Phd Student (UCL Energy  Institute)

These UCL researchers and PhD students were among an 80-strong team of data scientists, developers and designers who applied their skills and enthusiasm to solve – within 48 hours – key data problems for the charites.

Once the analysis was complete, the charities delivered presentations to share the applications and utility of their new insights:

· FareShare, who distribute surplus food to thousands of charities and foodbanks around the UK realised during the DataDive that the supplies they send out were not perfect matches with charities’ needs. For example, FareShare tend to oversupply dairy products and under supply sandwiches and tinned goods. They will use these learnings to source the right kinds of foods and better understand which items are needed and at what locations.

· The ONE Campaign explored payments made by the extractives industry to governments around the world. They found that some governments, such as those of Kyrgyzstan and Botswana, receive a significant number of in kind payments from oil, gas and mineral companies. The ONE Campaign are going to investigate this further to understand whether this is connected to corrupt practices.

· Christian Aid are in the final year of a project to improve farmers’ resilience to climate change in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. At the DataDive they sought to understand whether they had successfully increased the resilience of farmers, and if so, in what ways. Among other insights, they discovered that during their programme farmers became less reliant on cattle and tended to keep an increasing variety of smaller animals, such as chickens, donkeys and goats. This practice is a welcome one, as it enables farmers to better respond to climate shocks and stresses.

This high-energy Autumn DataDive – the first that UCL, as an institution, has been part of – provided a fantastic opportunity (and a fun weekend) for staff and students to develop data science skills, while generating impactful insights for charities.

" I had never been to a DataDive before, and being at the beginning of my PhD I was simply curious to see how we can help charities through the skills developed in academia. It turned out to be amazing: tens of people with fairly different backgrounds and expertise, supported by an awesome team of data scientists, trying to co-operate in order to fight corruption. It was a challenging weekend, but one that I would certainly recommend to every data enthusiast!  Davide Piras, PhD student (UCL Centre for Doctoral Training  in Data Intensive Science)
" ‘I was keen to attend the data dive to use my skills to help out the great charities data kind work with and also meet some like minded analytical people! I found it so useful to talk through the sorts of problems that I come across in my every day work life but in a totally different environment, with people from all sorts of different sectors. I learnt about different platforms that I want to get better at using and also found it really rewarding when some of my own knowledge was useful to those wanting to learn outside of their own field too. Having only recently completed my PhD it was great to explore new contexts and speak to people using exciting analytical and computational techniques in contexts other than academia - it’s always good to know what else is out there! Mainly it was great to meet so many new and interested people and feel like we were helping out some real good causes with tangible gains’. Lydia J Leon, Research Associate (UCL Farr Institute of health informatics)

If you are interested in attending future DataDives, please sign up to DataKindUK’s mailing list.

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Photo credit: DataKindUK