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Data Science for the Public Good

The University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute Marks Global Expansion of its Data Science for the Public Good Young Scholars Program with MOU Among Entities in Turkey

The University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute announces that it has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with five entities in Turkey, establishing the Data Science for the Public Good (DSPG) Young Scholars program in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s capital city.

The DSPG Young Scholars program was established by the Biocomplexity Institute team in 2015 to prepare a research-ready workforce with the experience to put data to practical use.

This is the first expansion of the program globally for the Biocomplexity Institute, which will provide guidance and support to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, Kodluyoruz Association, Ankara TED University Center for Applied Data Science ([email protected]), and TED University Center for Social Innovation (Istasyon TEDU).  

“We are delighted to take this step in expanding the DSPG Young Scholars program internationally to Turkey,” said Gizem Korkmaz, Associate Professor in the Institute’s Social and Decision Analytics Division (SDAD) and co-leader of the DSPG Young Scholars program. 

“The inaugural program supports five entities, including government and universities, to train 60 Turkish students virtually throughout the summer. We’re proud of the success we’ve had with our program and equally excited to share our experience beyond the University of Virginia. Extending our reach to the global community further supports our goal to equip a new generation of research scientists with the knowledge and skills they need to address the most pressing issues facing our local communities and global society.” 

Earlier this year, the Institute announced the expansion of the DSPG Young Scholars program outside the Commonwealth of Virginia for the first time thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and is working with Iowa State University, Oregon State University, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University to help create a three-state Coordinated Innovation Network. 

The DSPG Young Scholars annual summer program engages students to work on projects that address government challenges around critical social issues relevant in the world today. DSPG Young Scholars conduct research at the intersection of statistics, computation, and the social sciences to determine how information generated within every community can be leveraged to improve quality of life and inform public policy.

Korkmaz commented: “Through the program, our DSPG Young Scholars gain real-world research experience, expert training in essential tools for statistical computing such as R and Python, and opportunities to engage with decision-makers in industry and government agencies – all of which will better prepare them for and ideally give them an advantage when entering the professional world.”  

The MOU provides a framework of cooperation and a path to facilitate collaboration between the parties, on a non-exclusive basis, for the operation of the DSPG Young Scholars program in Istanbul and Ankara and future iterations of the program in Turkey. The main features of the program include

  • Two DSPG boot camps (one in İstanbul, one in Ankara) to train in total 60 university students and youth ages 18 – 29. The boot camp has been successfully implemented at the University of Virginia to prepare students from different disciplines for data science and its applications in social challenges. 
  • An applied program where the municipalities will assign specific public good projects to the boot camp teams.
  • A mentorship program to help the boot camp students apply their learnings to address the projects provided by the municipalities.
  • A project presentation day (one in İstanbul, one in Ankara) at the end of the boot camps where all teams present their project results to a selection committee.
  • Participation of the selected project teams (one from İstanbul, one from Ankara) to attend the virtual DSPG Symposium on August 7,when they will present their research in a public forum. 

“We are proud and happy to partner with the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute to bring the DSPG Young Scholars program to Turkey. I believe that this a very valuable first step for a fostering collaboration between all parties making this program happen,” said Dr. İnan Utku Türkmen from Ankara TED University Center for Applied Data Science ([email protected]). 

Gülcan Yayla, co-founder and CEO of Kodluyoruz, anonprofit working to make Turkey a technology talent hub, added, “We look forward to our scholars gaining practical research experience and skills that will provide more opportunities for them in the workforce and benefit the communities in which they will ultimately work. It’s a win for both.” 

As part of the DSPG Young Scholars program, the annual DSPG Symposium will be held virtually on August 7, 1-4:30 p.m. ET, and will include students from the five partner universities and several from the Turkey program.