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Seasons of Interdisciplinarity

The ‘Seasons of Interdisciplinarity’ project is an initiative by the Young Academy Leiden that started in 2021.

There are many scientific themes with high interdisciplinary potential that early career scholars at Leiden University are working on, but the scientific (and university) infrastructure is often rather insular.

The idea behind the Seasons is therefore to create bridges that connect these islands, so that we can find each other more easily, learn from each other, and create interdisciplinary synergies. Scientific challenges are complex, and individual perspectives often limited.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are a wonderful way to address this limitation, and we are confident that science is not only better, but also more fun as a cooperative team effort.

Spring of Big Data

Eye-opening’ experiences in the YAL Policy Hackathon

This season, the Young Academy Leiden dives into questions raised in the context of Big Data. We did this by means of an engaging Big Data Policy Hackathon for early-career researchers at Leiden University on Friday 18 June 2021 part of the ‘Seasons of Interdisciplinarity’.

Three stakeholders posed real-world challenges that were discussed in three groups to find potential solutions as well as think outside the box.

After a short introduction, the group gathered in breakout rooms, where stakeholders were able to present the challenge in more detail as well as share potential datasets for analysis.

One group looked at the challenge of the Dutch Suicide Prevention Hotline (113) and helped with finding factors that would predict the staffing of the hotline during different times of the day based on other (external) events. The group was able to identify interesting patterns around peaks in calls and gave input on potential factors, such as seasons, holidays, advertising of the hotline as well as news about celebrities or social media.

The second group focused on the issues that the municipal The Hague Housing Inspection Bureau (HPB) is facing when it comes to supervising the condition and use of all existing buildings in the city. In the discussion it became clear that the city currently relies on enforcement mechanisms that are based on information that has limited reliability, such as noise complaints. In this context, the group discussed technical solutions to pre-empt dangerous situations, such as overcrowding, through a combination of temporary sound and motion sensors with information on building age, height and material as well as past complaints. The conversation also highlighted that there is an opportunity to make more use of non-technical, face-to-face interaction at certain points, such as registration with the city for the social security number and making use of neighborhood initiatives already in place to reach out. Finally, the group suggested putting emphasis on employers and building owners to be responsible for abiding by regulations around living conditions and safety, as migrant workers, for example, are highly dependent on them due to language barriers as well as the duration of their stay.

The group around the challenge of how to use and understand usage data from Brightspace was able to gain insight into an aggregated and anonymized dataset to find ways to use the data to support students and lecturers in successfully completing a course. The focus was on taking stock of which activities are being recorded (and whether this is informative), how usage is linked to other indicators of performance as well as ethical issues around the use of such data. This also led to a discussion of how this data might be able to complement student evaluations as well as using the platform more extensively for prompts around deadlines and reading feedback – especially for big classes where lecturers have a hard time following up with individual students.

These findings and discussions were presented in the plenary where questions from the whole group sparked new ideas for future conversations and, as one stakeholder said, more ‘eye opening’ moments. This Policy Hackathon was only the beginning of a longer-term engagement as email addresses were exchanged and findings will be sent out to each of the stakeholders.

Upcoming Seasons

In 2021, there will be three more Seasons of Interdisciplinarity:

  • Summer of Sustainability
  • Fall of Misinformation
  • Winter of Mental Health

More information on the upcoming seasons will follow soon. 

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