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Conferences and Workshops

Institute for Data, Systems, and Society Launch

September 22, 2016 - September 23, 2016

MIT Media Lab (E14-674)

This two-day “launch” event celebrated the inaugural year of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) and set the stage for this new, multi-disciplinary endeavor moving forward. The launch brought together thought leaders from academia, industry, and government to discuss the challenges and opportunities for research at the forefront of society’s greatest challenges.

IDSS’s mission is to address complex societal challenges through the advancement of education and research at the intersections of statistics and data science, information and decision systems, engineering, and social sciences. Energy systems, health analytics, urban sciences, financial systems, and social networks: society’s greatest challenges emerge in these several domains, as well as in interactions between them. To provide answers to these critical challenges, IDSS fosters research utilizing vast amounts of available data, an in-depth understanding of fundamental engineering systems, and the investigation of social and institutional behaviors.


Opening Remarks

MIT President L. Rafael Reif & Professor Munther Dahleh, Director of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society

Session 1: The Future of Voting

The role of technology in voting has gained increasing prominence over the past decade, creating interdisciplinary collaborations between political, computer, and data scientists. Voting data contains an abundance of information that goes beyond the actual vote. This session looked at the complexity of voting, the usability of computing technologies (such as cryptography) in designing future voting systems, and how data is playing a role in understanding and predicting voting patterns and the outcome of elections.  


Moderator: Professor Charles Stewart, MIT
Keynote: Mr. Nate Silver, fivethirtyeight.com
Professor Michael Alvarez, Caltech
Ms. Kassia DeVorsey, Chief Analytics Officer, Messina Group Analytics

Session 2: Data-Driven Policy

While communities are collecting more data than ever before to measure effects of public policy, such data sets tend to be quite small. With the absence of a control group, the assessment of existing policies and the design of new ones utilizing such data bring new challenges to statistics and data science. This panel explored such challenges and highlighted how data analysis has been quite effective in some applications.  


Moderator: Professor Alberto Abadie, MIT
Keynote: Professor Enrico Giovannini, University of Rome Tor Vergata


Session 3: Risk in Financial Systems

Recent research has been successful in deriving abstracted models of the interconnected financial systems that quantify systemic risk and address cascaded failures of such systems. However, combining such models with recorded data for the purpose of monitoring and mitigation continues to be a major research and practical challenge. This session discussed such challenges, as well as the progress that has been made.  


Moderator: Professor Asu Ozdaglar, MIT
Keynote: Professor Bengt Holmstrom, MIT

Session 4: Social Networks

Social networks through social media have brought to bear very large data representing people’s preferences and opinions, and have highlighted effective incentive mechanisms. Such networks also impact and inform a variety of complex systems in our society. Such data has brought in new security and privacy challenges that have occupied much of the research in data science. This panel looked at new opportunities for understanding social networks and human behavior, as well as technological methods for ensuring security and privacy.


Remarks by Professor Ian A. Waitz, Dean of the School of Engineering


Moderator: Professor Ali Jadbabaie, MIT


Professor Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University
Professor Matthew Jackson, Stanford University
Dr. Jeannette M. Wing, Microsoft Research


Dr. Cynthia Dwork, Microsoft Research


Question and Answer

Session 5: Future Electric Grid, 3:00pm-4:00pm

The electric grid presents some of the most challenging engineering, social, and economic challenges of the future. With increased demands on electricity and increased penetration of renewable sources, the need for new innovations in dynamic demand response, spot markets, and distributed control is rapidly increasing. This session discussed some of these challenges and current work.


Moderator: Professor Bob Armstrong, MIT
Professor William Hogan, Harvard University
Professor Michael Greenstone, University of Chicago
Professor Sally Benson, Stanford University
Professor Steven Low, Caltech

Session 6: Student Session, 4:30pm-5:15pm

Student Session Chair: Professor Sandy Pentland, MIT

Session 7: Analyzing our Health

The collection, aggregation, and analysis of medical data presents possibilities for future healthcare developments, including opportunities for personalized medicine and patient care. The use of big data in medicine also raises serious questions about patient privacy. This session discussed ways in which the practice of medicine is being transformed by data.


Remarks by Professor Melissa Nobles, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, MIT, 9:00am
Keynote: Dr. DJ Patil, U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy
Moderator: Professor Peter Szolovits, MIT
Dr. John Halamka, MD, Chief Information Officer, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Professor Deborah Estrin, Cornell Tech
Dr. Elazer Edelman, MD, Brigham & Women’s Hospital & Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School of Medicine (HMS) and MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program (HST).

Session 8: Driving Smart Cities forward

Cities will become increasingly interconnected through an ever-expanding “internet of things,” allowing governments, urban planners and engineers access to massive amounts of data about urban life. This data is being used to design, plan, and structure cities in the United States and around the world. This session sought to explore the many facets of smart-cities research, design, planning, and transportation.


Moderator: Professor Sarah Williams, MIT
Keynote: Dr. Steven Koonin, NYU
Professor Rob Kitchin, Maynooth University
Professor Balaji Prabhakar, Stanford University
Professor Susan Crawford, Harvard Law School
Professor Alexandre Bayen, UC Berkeley

Session 9: From Applications To Theory, 1:30pm-2:30pm

While applications have their own nuances, there are overarching challenges that need to be identified and addressed. These include, among others, fundamental questions in prediction, robustness/risk, computation, system architecture, and privacy. This session addressed some of the emerging challenges in these foundational fields in this new era of large data and complex systems.


Moderator: Caroline Uhler, MIT
Professor Allen Tannenbaum, Stony Brook University
Professor Elchanan Mossel, MIT
Professor David Tse, Stanford University
Professor Vincent Blondel, Rector, Université catholique de Louvain

MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307