Yale celebrated its annual Day of Data on Friday, bringing together researchers, faculty and students from Yale and other institutions across the country to discuss the value of data and information in society.

Now in its fifth year, the Day of Data this year centered on the theme of “Data and Society,” exploring how different data sources and data-driven decision-making might play into public health or digital civil society. The event featured six speakers, including keynote speakers Dean of the School of Public Health Sten Vermund and Stanford research scholar Lucy Bernholz. About 100 attended the speaker events on Friday.

“This event is a way to bring researchers from across the disciplines at Yale together to talk about how they use and manage data in their research — whether they’re in the sciences, medicine, law or public humanities,” said Melanie Maksin, the director of research support and outreach programs at the Center for Science and Social Science Information.

The Day of Data is a collaborative effort of 10 institutes spanning the Yale campus, including the CSSSI, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale Law School. Past years’ themes include open data and reproducibility, sustainability and innovation.

The 2017 theme of “Data and Society” was inspired by efforts at Yale last year to archive and preserve government data, according to Jill Parchuck, associate University librarian for science, social science and medicine at the CSSSI.

“We thought about the importance of that data to society and questions started to emerge: How does data get generated by society, who owns it and who makes use of it for what purposes?” Parchuck said.

Before Friday’s events, the Day of Data held a poster session at the CSSSI last Thursday, allowing researchers to share their findings and Yale representatives to share their organizations’ mission statements in a more intimate setting. Poster topics ranged from the prevalence of disabilities in China’s elderly population to electoral campaign advertising.

In her keynote speech, Bernholz explored the relationship between data and civil society by discussing her work in Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab. She argued that our dependence today on digital systems and devices — which are commercially built and government-surveilled — results in a lack of a theoretically independent third space outside of government or markets.

She explained four approaches, or “codes,” to address this problem: software and hardware code, organizational code, legal code and social code. Software code includes encryption and GPS tracking, while organizational code refers to the creation of new kinds of nonprofit institutions to manage data. Legal code involves delving into policy domains, from encryption law to net neutrality to census counts, and social code looks at how individuals interact with their devices and how the digital world works.

Following Bernholz’s keynote, a panel comprising Yale computer science professor Holly Rushmeier, Executive Director of local nonprofit DataHaven Mark Abraham and School of Architecture professor Elihu Rubin presented each of their research projects.

Rushmeier explained her efforts to publicly share the findings of cultural preservation research and consolidate information about cultural artifacts.

“In studying cultural heritage, a variety of people want to make sense of the data available, including historians and people who are interested in cultural preservation, but there is no point to preserving if the information is not communicated to the public and benefits the public,” she said.

Her group has created a platform called CHER-Ob that recently developed a video generator placing output from different imaging sources into one interface. For example, Rushmeier shared a case study from the Grove Street Cemetery, in which a video was created to include a three-dimensional rotating model of a gravestone and annotations on the gravestone with more details.

Next, Abraham described the mission of DataHaven and its work to collect, share and interpret public data to support local communities. For example, the organization has conducted its annual DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey since 2012, allowing researchers to track a variety of issues related to wellbeing, quality of life and public health in the greater New Haven region.

Finally, Rubin explained his studies in urban geography and city planning, expanding on the history of buildings and establishments on Broadway in New Haven.

In the afternoon session, Maksin described data preservation efforts at Yale. One of several similar initiatives across the nation, Yale’s DataRescue team aims to identify and preserve federal research data — particularly climate data — to promote access by researchers, policymakers and the public.

“Yale is making significant investments in managing data as a research resource,” Bernholz said. She added that Yale is building majors, infrastructures and institutions to support the recognition that data can exist not only in science but also in fields such as art and architecture.

Day of Data organizers hope to collaborate with the Department of Statistics and Data Science — a new department created last spring to expand Yale’s teaching in data science — for next year’s event.

Amy Xiong | amy.xiong@yale.edu