qcriQatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) has partnered with the University of Chicago as part of the Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good summer fellowship program (DSSG), where 36 aspiring data scientists will work closely with experts in data mining, machine learning and data science projects to make progress on these questions.

According to Dr Patrick Meier, Director of Social Innovation at QCRI:

We are collaborating with our colleagues at the University of Chicago because our principles and visions are aligned. Advanced Computing can bring about social good, social change, particularly in the context of poverty alleviation and humanitarian action.’

The fellowship programme is organised by former Obama for America 2012 Chief Data Scientist Rayid Ghani, funded by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, and led by a team from the Computation Institute and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. The fellows will work with government and non-profit organisations to solve real world, difficult data problems.

Ghani said:

There are a lot of people really excited about data and analytics as well as making a social impact, but they don’t even know where to start…The goal of this fellowship is to solve concrete problems and create a long-term culture where data scientists are thinking about social challenges.’

QCRI has contributed one of the projects that will be addressed as part of the DSSG fellowship programme – ‘Measuring Disaster Damage with Tweets.’ This experimental project, which is part of QCRI’s Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response (AIDR) project, aims to answer a difficult question: how well can social media be used to detect the damage wrought by natural disasters? Through correlating tweets about damage and casualties during Hurricane Sandy, and other recent disasters, with hard data about the destruction, the goal of the project is to explore to what extent social media might allow earlier and more economical damage assessment and disaster response.

QCRI has plans to bring the Data Science for Social Good programme to Qatar in 2014, engaging aspiring data scientists from the region. The Qatar-based fellows programme will focus on applying data science to promote social good projects in the Arab World and beyond.

QCRI is working on several key humanitarian and development projects in the region and around the globe in partnership with the United Nations, Red Cross, World Bank and others, balancing its commitment to positive social change with a vision to become a world-class institute for advanced computing research. These projects support the endeavours of Qatar Foundation’s Research and Development enterprise to build Qatar into a leading center for research and development excellence and innovation.

For more information, visit on QCRI’s website or DSSG’s website.