The Definitive Guide to doing Data Science for Social Good

Are you a data scientist, and looking for the opportunity to use your skill for social good? Here, you can find some of the options available for using the data science skills for well-being of society.

Paid jobs (temporary / part-time)

Such positions are usually organized as fellowships. The most prolific fellowship in the field is probably the Data Science for Social Good Fellowship at the University of Chicago. It was started in 2013 and is run as a 3-month summer program where fellows working in small teams partner with non-profits and local government authorities to tackle socially relevant problems using data science. The fellowship is sponsored by the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Foundation. [$11-16k, 12 weeks]

The program has a smaller sibling in Atlanta: Data Science for Social Good Atlanta. The summer internship program was launched in 2014. Students in the program work as paid interns on projects coming from the City of Atlanta and local non-profits. [$8k, 10 weeks]

If you are a college student in the New York City area, you are then eligible for the Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School. In the past, students taking part in the summer school have worked on NYC related challenges. [$5k, 8 weeks]

Code for America fellows are usually web/app developers, but a few of the fellows are data scientists working on problems in different U.S. cities. [$50k, 11 months]

All these fellowships are run by organizations that partner with non-profits and the government. There are also non-profits that offer their own fellowship. An example is the Thorn Innovation Lab where data scientists help fight child sexual exploitation. [$100k, 1 year]

Apart from fellowships you might become what I call a “data angel”, a full-time data scientist working at a company that partners with a non-profit. You help the non-profit for a limited time while receiving your salary from your company. Some companies that offer such Corporate Social Responsibility programs are Pivotal, Teradata, Cloudera, Palantir, Splunk, Tableau, and Informatica.

If your company wants to establish such a CSR program in Germany, get in touch with us.

Paid jobs (permanent / full-time)

DataKind announced in 2014 it would create a full-time, in-house Data Science Team for Good in New York City. Their first data scientist was hired in early 2015 (see here) and you should check out DataKind’s careers page for upcoming positions. Sometimes, “Data for Good” job openings in general are also tweeted via @DataKind.

Bayes Impact is a Y Combinator backed non-profit in San Francisco. They launched in 2014 and their approach is to take on a few large projects at a time rather than spreading their resources across many smaller projects. Their vision is to build operational data science solutions for large-scale problems that affect millions of people. Project partners are large NGOs and the federal government. Bayes Impact is always looking for big-hearted data scientists, data engineers and software engineers. You can apply here.

As non-profits are beginning to understand that data science can help them achieve their goals, a few of them have already created full-time positions for data scientists. An example is Crisis Text Line. Or look for data science positions in certified B-corporations like

The government sector too begins to slowly open positions for data scientists. On the local level, the team of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics in New York City has achieved some impressive impact with their projects. On the federal level, the White House recently appointed Data Science veteran DJ Patil as U.S. Chief Data Scientist.

You might also want to look for jobs in for-profit companies whose mission is to use cutting-edge data science to solve pressing societal problems. An example is Enlitic in San Francisco who want to revolutionize diagnostic healthcare with deep learning. Or Edgeflip in Chicago who want to enable non-profits and issue-based groups to better reach their online communities using data science. You should also have a look at consultancies like Real Impact Analytics (Brussels), SocialCops (New Delhi) or Civis Analytics (Chicago) that have interesting social good projects in their portfolios. But these are just examples and there are many more out there.

And then there is of course the vast field of academia and science with opportunities to apply your data science skills to the greater good. Fields that produce enormous amounts of data like astronomy have a huge demand for data scientists. Check out an article by Jake Vanderplas for elaborate thoughts about data science in academia.

Off the beaten path

From my German perspective it seems like the vast majority of occasions to apply your skills for social good are in the U.S. I became interested in the field in 2013 and I didn’t find an organization in my city that allowed me to use my skills for social good. Instead of giving up I tried to convince a federal authority to use predictive analytics for prioritizing food security inspections. That didn’t work and then I founded DataLook. Through DataLook, I’m now in touch with a lot of people in Germany and abroad who share my interests.  It’s a long way and we are still looking for non-profits and government agencies as project partners to realize projects (get in touch!). However, I hope that this article helps some of you get connected with existing initiatives – or to start your own and leave the beaten path in order to do what you want to do: use data science to tackle real problems.

Let me know in the comments if I missed any relevant meetups, fellowships, etc. And follow us on Twitter.

Bio: Tobias Pfaff  is the founder of DataLook.

Original. Reposted by permission.