West Big Data Innovation Hub Spoke Project Spotlight: Promoting Big Data Among the Underserved

Cal State LA and City of Los Angeles Collaborate on Summer Scholar Programs

This summer, the City of Los Angeles Data Team worked with Community Partners and California State University Los Angeles (Cal State LA) College of Natural and Social Sciences to continue their efforts to promote big data literacy among local college students and underserved communities. The community-driven activities were a continuation of a National Science Foundation-funded three-year project coined Big Data to Promote Community Learning and Impact, a Spoke Project connected to the West Big Data Innovation Hub.

Pamela Scott-Johnson is Dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences at California State University, Los Angeles, and Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded Big Data to Promote Community Learning and Impact grant, a West Big Data Innovation Hub Spoke Project.
Pamela Scott-Johnson is Dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences at California State University, Los Angeles, and Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded Big Data to Promote Community Learning and Impact grant, a West Big Data Innovation Hub Spoke Project.

“Although this summer’s activities were challenging due to the pandemic restrictions, our students prevailed and completed an array of projects,” said Cal State LA’s Dean of College of Natural and Social Sciences Pamela Scott-Johnson. “This was all possible thanks to support from the City’s Data Team as well as our colleagues at Community Partners.”

Playing an integral role in involving non-profit organizations with the project, Los Angeles-based non-profit Community Partners ensured that the project was reaching underserved communities to truly impact people’s lives. “This is an exciting new model that takes data out of the traditional confines of academia and moves it into the hands of people who can find new ways to help their communities,” said Phyllis Owens,Vice President, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships at Community Partners. “It’s also a way to bring 21st-century data analysis skills to a new generation of students and open their eyes to new career pathways in both data and the nonprofit arena.”

Aligning with multiple underserved groups, the grant’s Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholar (SEEDS) participants included a paid internship at a partnering non-profit organization as well as instruction on utilizing multiple research and data mapping tools. SEEDS participants used data resources from the City of Los Angeles  data to build upon their already successful work from the past two years.

Featuring datasets related to schools, transportation, housing, parks, businesses, health, and much more, the LA GeoHub played a critical role in this summer’s work. For instance, SEEDS scholar Erin Weir helped develop a plan for street safety within Wilmington, an underserved community within the City of Los Angeles. “The ultimate goal was to improve the walkability as well as the overall feeling of safety and wellbeing for city residents,” said Weir. “This goal is to be achieved through our research in big data combined with advocacy of LA Walks.”

Other 2020 SEED projects used big data to examine the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes and residential care facilities in Los Angeles, to highlight the need for additional support for health and wellness in an unincorporated community in South Los Angeles, and to identify communities with insufficient shade and green space to inform and prioritize tree planting efforts. All of the 2020 SEEDS projects are listed here.

“This year’s internships were unique due to the remote/virtual format, yet our students produced even higher quality products than the previous in-person internship cohort of summer 2019,” said Hengchun Ye, Co-Principal Investigator of the NSF grant and Associate Dean of CalState LA’s College of Natural and Social Sciences. “This is very commendable for our very successful partnership and shows that we are very resilient and rise to the challenges.”

Funding for Big Data to Promote Community Learning was provided by National Science Foundation Award Number 1762010.

About Cal State LA’s College of Natural and Social Sciences:  The College of Natural and Social Sciences is the second largest college at Cal State LA with over 150 outstanding and dedicated faculty who have won more Statewide Outstanding Professor Awards than faculty in any other academic unit in the California State University system. The college is committed to programs of academic excellence in the fields of natural and social sciences that provide access and opportunity for a uniquely diverse student body.

About West Big Data Innovation Hub: The West Big Data Innovation Hub is one of four regional hubs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build and strengthen strategic partnerships across industry, academia, nonprofits, and government. The West Hub community aims to catalyze and scale data science for societal needs – connecting research, education, and practice in thematic areas such as natural resources and hazards, metro data science, health, and data-enabled discovery and learning. Coordinated by UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the University of Washington, the West Hub region includes contributors and data enthusiasts from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and a global network of partners.

Media Contact: Kimberly Mann Bruch, West Big Data Innovation Hub, kbruch@sdsc.edu

Related Links: California State University Los Angeles: www.calstatela.edu/, West Big Data Innovation Hub: westbigdatahub.org/, National Science Foundation: www.nsf.gov/