This past summer, the Harvard Data Science Initiative (HDSI) sponsored Harvard’s first “Data and Society Summer Book Club.” The Book Club was organized by Dr. Kelly McConville, senior lecturer in the Department of Statistics at Harvard University, to create a space for Harvard affiliates to connect regularly and discuss ideas related to data science and society.
“Running a book club seemed like a great way to do [this] because the weekly readings would give us enough structure and shared knowledge to spark interesting conversations,” McConville said.
To help initiate the launch of the book club and eliminate financial barriers to participation, the HDSI purchased books for those interested in joining. The book club was open to Harvard affiliates across all departments and schools, and brought together a group of 20 members, including undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff.
The book club completed two books this summer, “The Alignment Problem” by Brian Christian and “Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Pérez. With continued funding support from the HDSI, the club will reconvene next summer and select books from a list of suggestions from members.
“Near the end of the summer, one of the undergraduate members expressed how enriching it was for him to get outside his usual network and to connect with people from different parts of our campus. With that, I felt like my goal of bringing a diverse group of people together to talk data science had succeeded,” McConville said.
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