EECS Department Colloquium Series

The Hearts and Minds of Data Science

Cecilia Aragon

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
306 Soda Hall (HP Auditorium)
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Cecilia Aragon
Associate Professor
Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle

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Thanks in part to the recent popularity of the buzzword "big data," it is now generally understood that many important scientific breakthroughs are made by interdisciplinary collaborations of scientists working in geographically distributed locations, producing and analyzing vast and complex data sets. The extraordinary advances in our ability to acquire and generate data in physical, biological, and social sciences are transforming the fundamental nature of science discovery across domains. Much of the research in this area, which has become known as data science, has focused on automated methods of analyzing data such as machine learning and new database techniques. Less attention has been directed to the human aspects of data science, including how to build interactive tools that maximize scientific creativity and human insight, and how to train, support, motivate, and retain the individuals with the necessary skills to produce the next generation of scientific discoveries. 

In this talk, I will argue for the importance of a human centered approach to data science as necessary for the success of 21st century scientific discovery. Further, I attest that we need to go beyond well-designed user interfaces for data science software tools to consider the entire ecosystem of software development and use: we need to study scientific collaborations interacting with technology as socio-technical systems, where both computer science and sociological approaches are interwoven. I will discuss promising research in this area, describe the current status of the Moore/Sloan Data Science Environment at UW, and speculate upon future directions for data science.

Cecilia Aragon is an associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, where she directs the Scientific Collaboration and Creativity Lab. She holds a faculty position with the UW eScience Institute and courtesy appointments in Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and the Information School, and leads UW’s Ethnography and Evaluation Working Group as one of the PIs of the $37.8M Moore/Sloan Data Science Environment. Before arriving at UW in 2010, she held an appointment in the Computational Research Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for six years after earning her Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley in 2004. She received her B.S. in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology.

Her current research focuses on human centered data science and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), visual analytics, emotion in informal text communication, and how social media and new methods of computer-mediated communication are changing data-intensive scientific practice.

She has authored or co-authored over 70 refereed and 100 non-refereed publications in HCI, CSCW, visual analytics, machine learning, and astrophysics. Her research has been recognized with six Best Paper awards since 2004. She won the Distinguished Alumni Award in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 2013, the Faculty Innovator in Teaching Award from her department at UW that same year, and was named one of the Top 25 Women of 2009 by Hispanic Business Magazine. In 2008, she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her work in data-intensive science. Aragon has an interdisciplinary background, including over 15 years of software development experience in industry and NASA, and a three-year stint as the founder and CEO of a small company.

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