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3 ways data science and technology are helping us help the world

How they’re being used to tackle poverty, natural disasters and fallout from the Syrian refugee crisis

Map from <em>A Global Outlook on Disaster Science</em> (Elsevier, 2017); background © istock.com/painterr
Map from A Global Outlook on Disaster Science (Elsevier, 2017); background © istock.com/painterr

Editor’s Note: For December, we are exploring the theme of “giving back: the emerging role of data and technology.


1.  Data scientists are helping a charity that fights hunger

Volunteer data scientists Hania Adamczyk and Mike Taylor tackle challenges for social change organizations at a DataKind DataDive. (Photo courtesy of DataKind)

FareShare, the UK's largest charity fighting hunger and food waste, delivers surplus food from retailers and manufacturers in the food industry and delivers it to charities – from children’s breakfast clubs, to community centers, foodbanks and domestic violence shelters. Earlier this year, FareShare started working with DataKind, a global organization and partner of the Elsevier Foundation. DataKind helps organizations take data science techniques to the front lines of charitable work.

Using predictive analytics, DataKind digs into the data on the supply side reveals what types of food are most likely to arrive at one of the organization’s hundreds of depots and from which suppliers. It can show what types of food they’re over supplied with, and the types of food of which they need more.

In the recent DataDive in London, data scientists from companies including Elsevier volunteered to find more ways to help charities tap the power of data.

Read more about the collaboration between DataKind and FareShare and the DataDive hackathon.

2. Mapping the landscape of disaster science research can help us understand and address a growing threat

Disaster science scholarly output, relative activity index, and field-weighted citation impact per comparator country, 2012-16. (Source: A Global Outlook on Disaster Science)

2017 has been a devastating year for natural disasters, with climate change contributing to an increase in floods, droughts and other extreme weather events. Science and technology can help us understand and address these issues – and understanding the state of disaster science research can help researchers – and those who fund them – target the areas in need of investigation.

Download the reportTo prepare Elsevier’s recent report A Global Outlook on Disaster Science, our colleagues used Scopus data and natural language processing (NLP) techniques to map out and analyze disaster science research published globally between 2012 and 2016, while tapping the expertise of key organizations and scholars.

Read about the report.

3. CARA is using Elsevier technology to help researchers who fled Syria

Scholars who have fled Syria are learning to use technologies such as Mendeley to support continued professional connection and engagement. The workshop is part of the Cara Syria Programme.

The Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) dates back to 1933. When Hitler expelled hundreds of academics from German universities on racial grounds, British scholars founded the organization for “the relief of suffering and the defence of learning and science.”

Tragically, there are still scholars at risk, many fleeing from the brutal civil war in Syria. Cara focuses on removing scholars from immediate danger and helping them develop new skills to make them more employable.

Elsevier is collaborating with Cara to help Syrian scholars use technology to improve their researching capacity and visibility. For example, with Mendeley – a free reference manager and academic social network – researchers are using discussion groups to converse and collaborate with academic colleagues in the UK, and other Mendeley features to hone their academic skills.

Read the full story.

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