The growth of data science, both in terms of the availability of massive data sources as well as powerful computational methods for analyzing them, opens up new possibilities for scientific advancement. In the social sciences, it raises the possibility that scholars can address a longstanding lack of high-quality information about the social, political, and economic status of marginal populations. However, all social data has weaknesses and biases, regardless of the size of the data set. This talk will explore the new possibilities big data has opened up within the social sciences – with tools such as social network analyses and geospatial information systems, among others. Yet, the transformational potential of data science to advance social well-being can only be realized if scholars are mindful of the potential for these new approaches to re-inscribe bias and misrepresentations of vulnerable populations. This talk will conclude with some practical suggestions for researchers to take into consideration as they embark on this work.
Dr. Bedolla is the director of the Institute of Governmental Studies and a professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. She studies why people choose to engage politically, using a variety of social science methods—field observation, in-depth interviews, survey research, field experiments, and geographic information systems (GIS)—to shed light on this question. Her research focuses on how marginalization and inequality structure the political and educational opportunities available to members of ethno-racial groups, with a particular emphasis on the intersections of race, class, and gender. Her current projects include an analysis of how technology can facilitate voter mobilization among voters of color in California and a historical exploration of the race, gender, and class inequality at the heart of the founding of California's public school system. She has published four books and dozens of research articles. She has received fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, UCLA's Institute of American Cultures, the James Irvine Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Huntington Library, and the American Political Science Association.