User:Groceryheist/drafts/Data Science Syllabus

From CommunityData
Course Title
Data Science and Organizational Communication:
Nate TeBlunthuis
Course Catalog Description
Fundamental principles of data science and its implications, including research ethics; data privacy; legal frameworks; algorithmic bias, transparency, fairness and accountability; data provenance, curation, preservation, and reproducibility; human computation; data communication and visualization; the role of data science in organizational context and the societal impacts of data science.

Course Description[edit]

The rise of "data science" reflects a broad and ongoing shift in how many teams, organizational leaders, communities of practice, and entire industries create and use knowledge. This class teaches "data science" as practiced by data-intensive knowledge workers but also as it is positioned in historical, organizational, institutional, and societal contexts. Students will gain an appreciation for the technical and intellectual aspects of data science, consider critical questions about how data science is often practiced, and envision ethical and effective science practice in their current and future organizational roles. The format of the class will be a mix of lecture, discussion, in-class activities, and qualitative and quantitative research assignments. We assume no prior expertise in programming or statistics, only strong academic skills and a willingness to learn. However, students without any background in either programming or in qualitative research (e.g. interviewing) may find this course a challenge.

The course is designed around two high-stakes projects. In the first stage of the students will attend the Community Data Science Workshop (CDSC). I am one of the organizers and instructors of this three week intensive workshop on basic programming and data analysis skills. The first course project is to apply these skills together with the conceptual material from this course we have covered so far to conduct an original data analysis on a topic of the student's interest. The second high-stakes project is a critical analysis of an organization or work team. For this project students will serve as consultants to an organizational unit involved in data science. Through interviews and workplace observations they will gain an understanding of the socio-technical and organizational context of their team. They will then synthesize this understanding with the knowledge they gained from the course material to compose a report offering actionable insights to their team.

This version of the syllabus is designed around a weekly schedule.

Learning Objectives[edit]

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand what it means to analyze large and complex data effectively and ethically with an understanding of human, societal, organizational, and socio-technical contexts.
  • Consider the account ethical, social, organizational, and legal considerations of data science in organizational and institutional contexts.
  • Combine quantitative and qualitative data to generate critical insights into human behavior.
  • Discuss and evaluate ethical, social, organizational and legal trade-offs of different data analysis, testing, curation, and sharing methods.


Course schedule (click to expand)

This page is a work in progress.

Week 1[edit]

Introduction to Human Centered Data Science
What is data science? What is human centered? What is human centered data science?
Assignments due

Readings assigned
Homework assigned
  • Week 2 reading reflection
  • Attend week 1 of CDSW

Week 2[edit]

Ethical considerations
privacy, informed consent and user treatment
Assignments due
  • Week 2 reading reflection
  • Attend week 1 of CDSW

Readings assigned
Homework assigned
  • Week 3 reading reflection
  • Attend week 2 of CDSW

Week 3[edit]

Reproducibility and Accountability
data curation, preservation, documentation, and archiving; best practices for open scientific research
Assignments due
  • Week 3 reading reflection
  • Attend week 2 of CDSW
Readings assigned
Homework assigned
  • Week 4 reading reflection
  • Attend week 3 of CDSW
  • A1: Project proposal and data aquisition

Week 4[edit]

Interrogating datasets
causes and consequences of bias in data; best practices for selecting, describing, and implementing training data

Assignments due
  • Week 4 reading reflection
  • Attend week 3 of CDSW
  • A1: Project proposal and data aquisition

Readings assigned (Read both, reflect on one)
  • Barley, S. R. (1986). Technology as an occasion for structuring: evidence from observations of ct scanners and the social order of radiology departments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31(1), 78–108.
  • Orlikowski, W. J., & Barley, S. R. (2001). Technology and institutions: what can research on information technology and research on organizations learn from each other? MIS Q., 25(2), 145–165.
Homework assigned
  • Week 5 reading reflection
  • A2: Data analysis (due week 6)

Week 5[edit]

Technology and Organizing
Assignments due
  • Week 5 reading reflection
  • Assignment 1: Project proposal and data aquisition
Readings assigned
  • Passi, S., & Jackson, S. J. (2018). Trust in Data Science: Collaboration, Translation, and Accountability in Corporate Data Science Projects. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact., 2(CSCW), 136:1–136:28.
Homework Assigned
  • Week 6 reading reflection
  • A2: Data analysis (due week 6)

Week 6[edit]

Data science in Organizational Contexts

And a crash course on qualitative research

Assignments due
  • Week 6 reading reflection
  • A2: Data analysis
Readings assigned (Read both, reflect on one)
Homework assigned
  • Week 7 reading reflection
  • A3: Final project proposal

Week 7[edit]

Introduction to mixed-methods research
Big data vs thick data; integrating qualitative research methods into data science practice; crowd-sourcing

Assignments due
  • Week 7 reading reflection
  • A3: Final project proposal

Readings assigned (Read both, reflect on one)

Homework assigned
  • Week 8 reading reflection
  • A4: Final presentation (due week 11)

Week 8[edit]

algorithmic fairness, transparency, and accountability; methods and contexts for algorithmic audits
Assignments due
  • Week 8 Reading reflection
Readings assigned
Homework assigned
  • Week 9 Reading reflection
  • A4: Final presentation (due week 11)

Week 9[edit]

Data science for social good
Community-based and participatory approaches to data science; Using data science for society's benefit
Assignments due
  • Week 9 reading reflection
Readings assigned
Homework assigned
  • A4: Final presentation (due week 11)
  • Reading reflection

Week 10[edit]

User experience and big data
Design considerations for machine learning applications; human centered data visualization; data storytelling
Assignments due
  • Week 10 reading reflection

Readings assigned
  • NONE
Homework assigned
  • A4: Final presentation

Week 11[edit]

Final presentations
course wrap up, presentation of student projects

Assignments due
  • A4: Final presentation
Readings assigned
  • none!
Homework assigned
  • A5: Final project report (by 11:59pm)

Week 12: Finals Week (No Class Session)[edit]


Assignments and coursework[edit]

Assignments are comprised of weekly in-class activities, weekly reading reflections, written assignments, and programming/data analysis assignments. Weekly in-class reading groups will discuss the assigned readings from the course and students are expected to have read the material in advance. In class activities each week are posted to Canvas and may require time outside of class to complete.

Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due before 5pm on the following week's class.

Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are individual assignments.

Weekly reading reflections[edit]

This course will introduce you to cutting edge research and opinion from major thinkers in the domain of human centered data science. By reading and writing about this material, you will have an opportunity to explore the complex intersections of technology, methodology, ethics, and social thought that characterize this budding field of research and practice.

As a participant in the course, you are responsible for intellectually engaging with all assigned readings and developing an understanding of the ideas discussed in them.

The weekly reading reflections assignment is designed to encourage you to reflect on these works and make connections during our class discussions. To this end, you will be responsible for posting reflections on the previous week's assigned reading before the next class session.

There will generally be multiple readings assigned each week. You are responsible for reading all of them. However, you only need to write a reflection on one reading per week. Unless your instructor specifies otherwise, you can choose which reading you would like to reflect on.

These reflections are meant to be succinct but meaningful. Follow the instructions below, demonstrate that you engaged with the material, and turn the reflection in on time, and you will receive full credit. Late reading reflections will never be accepted.

  1. Read all assigned readings.
  2. Select a reading to reflect on.
  3. In at least 2-3 full sentences, answer the question "How does this reading inform your understanding of human centered data science?"
  4. Using full sentences, list at least 1 question that this reading raised in your mind, and say why the reading caused you to ask this question.
  5. Post your reflection to Canvas before the next class session.

You are encouraged, but not required, to make connections between different readings (from the current week, from previous weeks, or other relevant material you've read/listened to/watched) in your reflections.

Project Assignments[edit]

This section provides basic descriptions of all scheduled course assignments.

In assignments 1 and 2 you will build on the skills you'll learn in the community data science workshop to analyze data of your own substantive interests. The goals are to reinforce learning from the workshop and to give you hands on experience that will help you think about how data science might apply to your own community or organization.

Assignments 3, 4, and 5 scaffold your final project for the course in which you will conduct a qualitative study of data science in an organizational context. I strongly recommend for you to make arrangements to conduct observations and interviews with a data science team as soon as possible.

A1: Project proposal and data aquisition[edit]

For this assignment you will propose a midterm project and use the skills you have learned in the CDSW to collect or present a dataset. You will turn in a one-page project description that

  • Identifies a dataset for analysis, and what makes it interesting to you.
  • Explains how the source of the data, how did you get it?
  • Describes 2-3 questions that the data can help answer, and explain how you will answer them.
  • What results you expect or intend, and most importantly, why your project is interesting or important (and to whom, besides yourself).
  • Includes a table of summary statistics (minimum, maximum, median, and mean values) for variables in your dataset related to these questions

I hope that you find a dataset related to your own interests, such as data from your workplace, community, or any other organization you may be involved in. For some ideas about where to look for datasets related to your interests, see this page with examples of freely available datasets that you can use for this project.

Evaluation and Rubric[edit]

Dataset identification: 20%
Explaination of data source: 20%
Example questions: 20%
Anticipated results and their significance: 20%
Summary statistics: 20%

A2: Data analysis[edit]

For this exercise, you will design and execute the analysis that you proposed in A1. You must attempt to answer to the questions you posed using your new data science skills, but you must also practice a kind of "meta-analysis" of your analysis to understand limitations and potential consequences of your analysis. Turn in a report of about 1500 words with about equal space dedicated to:

  • Presenting your analysis: what did you do and what did you find out? Communicate your findings though using at least one chart or table.
  • Explaining the significance of your analysis to the (real or hypothetical) organization or community that will make use of it. Why should we care about this analysis?
  • Critique of the analysis in terms of both what you did and how it might be used. How might your analysis improve through better data or analysis? What assumptions underlie your interpretation of it? How might (or might not) this analysis influence or mislead its audiences?

Evaluation and Rubric[edit]

Presentation of data analysis: 40%
Appropriate chart or table: 5%
Explanation of applicability to community or organization: 20%
Critique in terms of improving the analysis : 10%
Critique in terms of application : 10%
Writing quality (see the writing rubric): 15%

A3: Final project plan[edit]

For this assignment, you will write up a study plan for your final class project. The goal of this project is for you to apply what you have learned about data science studies to understanding and improving data science practice in an organizational context. The plan will cover a variety of details about your final project.

Specifically your plan should:

  • Identify the organization that you will work with, and your contact there.
  • Summarize what you already know about this organization and how they use data science.
  • Identify a research question that you don't already know the answer to, but where project can realistically help you answer it. This should be specific and tied to a particular aspect of how data science is practiced or is used in this organization. Effective research questions will often raise issues or problems with the organization.
  • Outline your plan to collect qualitative data. Will you conduct interviews? Who with? What questions will you ask? Will you conduct workplace observations?
  • Explain what results you expect or intend, and most importantly, why your project is interesting or important (and to whom, besides yourself).

A reasonable amount of data collection for this project is about 4 30 minutes interviews with different team members, about 4 hours of workplace observation, or an equivalent combination of interviews and observation.

Maximum length: 1500 words.

Evaluation and Rubric[edit]

Organization and identification: 20%
Summary of what you already know: 20%
Research question: 20%
Data collection plan: 20%
Anticipated results and their significance: 20%

A4: Final project presentation[edit]

For this assignment, you will give an in-class presentation of your final project. The goal of this assignment is to demonstrate that you are able to effectively communicate your research questions, methods, conclusions, and implications to your target audience. This is your chance to get quality feedback on your project from me and from your classmates. Key elements that you should cover in your presentation include:

  • What organization or team you studied
  • Your research question about how data science functions in this organization
  • Your findings: what you learned about your research question from your data in relation to course material.
  • Who you observed or interviewed
  • At least one quotation or anecdote from your qualitative data that support your findings
  • Tentative recommendations to the organization based on your findings

Evaluation and Rubric[edit]

Presentation organization and design: 15%
Explaination and justification of a research question: 15%
Presentation of evidence: 25%
Findings: 25%
Recommendations to the organization: 20%

A5: Final project report[edit]

In the final report, I expect you to take feedback from your presentation and and report on your project in up to 3000 words. You can organize your paper however you want, but it should do the following:

  • Introduce the organization or team you studied
  • Document how you collected data with the team (who you interviewed or observed, for how long, describe their jobs and roles).
  • Motivate your project in terms of your substantive interest, curiosity, and course concepts.
  • Introduce and articulate a specific research question about how data science functions in this organization. This will often be driven by a particular challenge or issue the team you are studying faces.
  • The bulk of your report (about 2000 words) should argue for an understanding of the research question based on
  • Your empirical findings: what you learned about the organization and the practice of data science from your own observations or interviews. Use anecdotes and quotes as appropriate to support your argument.
  • Any course material relevant to the challenge or issue at hand.
  • Make recommendations to the organization based on your findings.

Optionally, you may make recommendations to me about the course material in relation to this project. Was there anything that you expected to see based on the course material that you didn't observe? Was there anything interesting that you observed that the course didn't address? How might you improve the course given what you learned?

Evaluation and Rubric[edit]

Writing quality (see the writing rubric): 15%
Explaination and justification of a research question: 15%
Presentation of evidence: 25%
Findings: 25%
Recommendations to the organization: 20%
Course feedback (Extra credit): 3%


The following general policies apply to this course.


Grades will be determined as follows:

  • 20% Participation
  • 20% Reading reflections
  • 5% Midterm proposal
  • 15% Midterm report
  • 5% Final project proposal
  • 10% Final project presentation
  • 25% Final project report

You are expected to produce work in all of the assignments that reflects the highest standards of professionalism. For written documents, this means proper spelling, grammar, and formatting.

Late assignments will not be accepted; if your assignment is late, you will receive a zero score. Again, if you run into an issue that necessitates an extension, please reach out.


As detailed in this page on assessment, attendance in class is expected of all participants. If you need to miss class for any reason, please contact a member of the teaching team ahead of time (email is best). Multiple unexplained absences will likely result in a lower grade or (in extreme circumstances) a failing grade. In the event of an absence, you are responsible for obtaining class notes, handouts, assignments, etc.


Students are expected to treat each other, and the instructors, with respect. Students are prohibited from engaging in any kind of harassment or derogatory behavior, which includes offensive verbal comments or imagery related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion. In addition, students should not engage in any form of inappropriate physical contact or unwelcome sexual attention, and should respect each others’ right to privacy in regards to their personal life. In the event that you feel you (or another student) have been subject to a violation of this policy, please reach out to the instructors in whichever form you prefer.

The instructors are committed to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for students. As part of this, students are asked not to wear any clothing, jewelry, or any related medium for symbolic expression which depicts an indigenous person or cultural expression re­appropriated as a mascot, logo, or caricature. These include, but are not limited to, iconography associated with the following sports teams:

  1. Chicago Blackhawks
  2. Washington Redskins
  3. Cleveland Indians
  4. Atlanta Braves

Devices in Class[edit]

Electronic devices (e.g., phones, tablets, laptops) are not going to permitted in class. If you have a documented need to use a device, please contact me ahead of time to let me know. If you do get permission to use a device, I will ask you to sit in the very back of the classroom.

The goal of this policy is to help you stay focused and avoid distractions for yourself and your peers in the classroom. This is really important and turns out to be much more difficult in the presence of powerful computing devices with brightly glowing screens and fast connections to the Internet. For more on the rationale behind this policy, please read Clay Shirky’s thoughtful discussion of his approach to this issue.

Electronic Mail Standards of Conduct[edit]

Email communications (and all communications generally) among UW community members should seek to respect the rights and privileges of all members of the academic community. This includes not interfering with university functions or endangering the health, welfare, or safety of other persons. With this in mind, in addition to the University of Washington's Student Conduct Code, I establishes the following standards of conduct in respect to electronic communications among students and faculty:

  • If, as a student, you have a question about course content or procedures, please use the online discussion board designed for this purpose. If you have specific questions about your performance, contact me directly.
  • I strive to respond to Email communications within 48 hours. If you do not hear from me, please come to my office, call me, or send me a reminder Email.
  • Email communications should be limited to occasional messages necessary to the specific educational experience at hand.
  • Email communications should not include any CC-ing of anyone not directly involved in the specific educational experience at hand.
  • Email communications should not include any blind-CC-ing to third parties, regardless of the third party’s relevance to the matter at hand.

Academic integrity and plagiarism[edit]

As a University of Washington student, you are expected to practice high standards of academic honesty and integrity. You are responsible to understand and abide by UW’s Student Governance Code on Academic Misconduct, and the UW’s Administrative Code on Academic Misconduct, and to comply with verbal or written instructions from the professor or TA of this course. This includes plagiarism, which is a serious offense. All assignments will be reviewed for integrity. All rules regarding academic integrity extend to electronic communication and the use of online sources. If you are not sure what constitutes plagiarism, read this overview in addition to UW’s policy statements.

I am committed to upholding the academic standards of the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code. If I suspect a student violation of that code, I will first engage in a conversation with that student about my concerns. If we cannot successfully resolve a suspected case of academic misconduct through our conversations, I will refer the situation to the department of communication advising office who can then work with the COM Chair to seek further input and if necessary, move the case up through the College.

While evidence of academic misconduct may result in a lower grade, I will not unilaterally lower a grade without addressing the issue with you first through the process outlined above.

Other academic integrity resources:

Notice: The University has a license agreement with VeriCite, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources. Your instructor may use the service in this class by requiring that assignments are submitted electronically to be checked by VeriCite. The VeriCite Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced.

Disability and accommodations[edit]

As part of ensuring that the class is as accessible as possible, the instructors are entirely comfortable with you using whatever form of note-taking method or recording is most comfortable to you, including laptops and audio recording devices. The instructors will do their best to ensure that all slides and scripts/notes are immediately available online after a lecture has concluded. In addition, if asked ahead of time we can try to record the audio of individual lectures for students who have learning differences that make audiovisual notes preferable to written ones.

If you require additional accommodations, please contact Disabled Student Services: 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from DSS indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructors so we can discuss the accommodations you might need in the class. If you have any questions about this policy, reach out to the instructors directly.

For more information on disability accommodations, and how to apply for one, please review UW's Disability Resources for Students.