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Federal Interagency Conference on Social Science and Big Data

A conference for federal employees on applying big data to social, behavioral and economic issues.

September 30, 2020 12:30 PM  to 
September 30, 2020 5:00 PM
This event is closed to the public.

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October 1, 2020 12:00 PM  to 
October 1, 2020 5:30 PM
This event is closed to the public.

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October 2, 2020 10:30 AM  to 
October 2, 2020 3:15 PM
This event is closed to the public.

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This event is open only to federal employees. Registration is required.

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Interagency Workgroup, comprised of social and behavioral scientists from more than a dozen federal agencies, is sponsoring a virtual conference designed to bring together federal agency perspectives and experiences with applying big data to address social, behavioral, cultural, and economic issues. This is a complex area of emerging importance, with many facets including both technical and ethical issues. The conference will bring together social scientists, including sociologists, behavioral scientists, psychologists, risk assessors, risk communicators, and potentially others to discuss these issues.

Through a variety of presentations and panel discussions, we expect to:

  1. Discuss new types of big data that are especially relevant to exploring social science questions.
  2. Discuss ethical and legal issues associated with using big data in a social science context and any special concerns with using such data to support federal agency decisions and actions.
  3. Improve understanding of what big data means in the context of social science.
  4. Discuss technical issues and challenges to using big data in the social sciences. 

Outcomes of this workshop may include a summary of agency perspectives and experiences using big social science data, development of a list or repository of social science datasets with associated experts and contacts, guidance on ethical use of big social science data, gap analysis and complementary opportunity analysis, and/or a commentary paper.

Due to the ongoing risks from COVID-19, we have decided to hold the conference virtually. This conference is intended for a federal audience, with some presentations provided by non-federal experts who can provide perspectives on computational social science and big data. 

Federal participants for the workshop include:

  • US Environmental Protection Agency (co-lead)
  • National Institutes of Health (co-lead)
  • National Science Foundation (co-lead, hosting facility)
  • Department of Justice (contract support)
  • US Forest Service
  • National Park Service
  • US Geological Survey
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • Department of Education
  • General Services Administration
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Department of Transportation

Draft Agenda:

Day 1 (Wednesday, September 30): 


Welcome and overview

  • Bryan Hubbell, EPA
  • Bill Riley, NIH
  • Arthur Lupia, NSF, conference host


Social science and big data

  • Gary King, Harvard

2:00 – 2:15



Linking social science data to big data platforms

Moderator:  Arthur Lupia, NSF

  1. Administrative data - Misty Heggeness, US Census Bureau
  2. Criminal justice data - Kim Martin, DOJ
  3. Environmental data - Chris Duncan, NIEHS
  4. Electronic health records - Chun-Ju (Janey) Hsiao, HHS/AHRQ
  5. Educational data - Anthony Kelly, GMU                                                         

4:00 – 4:15


4:15 – 4:45 - Interfacing between small and big data

  • Rebecca Johnson, Dartmouth College

4:45 – 5:00

Day 1 wrap up

Day 2 (Thursday, October 1):                                                               

12:00 – 12:10

Welcome and day 1 recap

12:10 – 1:00

Lunch and learn presentation on big data tools for social sciences

  • Frauke Kreuter, University of Maryland

1:00 – 1:15


1:15 – 1:45

Keynote presentation: 

  • Tim Gallaudet, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.) Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere / Deputy NOAA Administrator

1:45 – 3:30

Ethics of big data, Part 1

Moderator: Anne Weaver, EPA

  1. Data justice - danah boyd, Microsoft Research
  2. Access - Julia Lane, NYU
  3. Privacy/confidentiality - Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA

3:30 -3:45


3:45 – 5:15

Ethics of big data, Part 2

Moderator:  Bryan Hubbell, EPA 

  1. Algorithms/AI - Aaron Roth, U. of Pennsylvania
  2. Technological approaches to address ethics concerns - Ana Rappold, EPA                   

5:15 – 5:30

Day 2 wrap up

Day 3 (Friday, October 2):                                                               


Welcome and day 2 recap


Personally generated data

Moderator: Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA

  1. Environmental data - Nate Merrill, EPA
  2. Health data - Donna Spruijt-Metz, USC
  3. Volunteered geographic information - Spencer Wood, U. of Washington
  4. Internet of things - Wendy Nilsen, NSF




Promise and Perils of Social Media Data

Moderator:  Angela Moore, DOJ 

  1.   Participants as observers of themselves, others and their environment - Sylvia Chou, NIH/NCI                                                              
  2.    Privacy in a world of volunteered data - Katie Shilton, U. of Maryland               
  3.    Representativeness and interpretation - Eric White, USFS
  4.    Methods - Sonya Sachdeva, USFS


Conference Wrap up

Moderator:  Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA

  1. Sharing of perspectives – what has changed?
  2. Actions we can take to increase/improve use of big data                                                       

Meeting Type

Alexander A Romero II, 703-292-2184, email:
Bryan Hubbell, email:

Related Agencies
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

NSF Related Organizations
Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences