By Louis DiPietro

A public panel on climate justice and data – ranging from communities using inexpensive sensors for environmental monitoring, to collaborative analysis of obscure government records – will take place at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 18, in G01 Gates Hall. 

“Data into Action: Building Activist Data Enterprises for Sustainability,” a panel hosted by researchers from the Department of Information Science, is the first event in a weekend workshop that targets Cornell students with interests in environmental justice, activism, policy, or corporate accountability. The panel is open to anyone at Cornell. The workshops on Saturday, March 19, are limited to Cornell students who register

The panel will include representatives from three cutting-edge non-profits working to further environmental accountability through data collection and analysis:

• Public Lab, a community and non-profit whose current research focus is on mine reclamation to support local organizers in West Virginia and others organizing against extractive land uses anywhere. 

• Littlesis, a watchdog network whose free database is used by journalists and activists to analyze the connections and financial transactions of the world’s richest and most powerful people and companies.

• Environmental Data and Governance Initiative [EDGI], which documents and analyzes changes to online environmental data, information and overall governance, and advocates for more just and effective policies and practices. 

The weekend workshop is part of a research initiative led by Christopher Csíkszentmihályi, Steven Jackson, and Phoebe Sengers, all associate professors in the Department of Information Science. They are the investigators behind “Repair and Redress: Expanding the Repertoire of Community-led Climate Justice Practices,” a collaborative project bringing together representatives from communities facing sustainability challenges and non-profit and peer organizers. 

“Startups and entrepreneurship are often associated with private ventures, but the planet also needs sharp organizations that drive new technologies in the public’s interest,” Csíkszentmihályi said. “This panel and workshop brings to Cornell some of the top grassroot groups who are combining data science, activism, and climate justice, with community-driven approaches. Their work is both practical and inspiring, and we’re hoping that the workshops give undergraduates a concrete example of how to leverage technology for social good.” 

Students who participate in the Saturday workshop will learn about each of the three participating non-profits and how they model technology-enabled social change. While some technical knowledge like coding and web scraping are beneficial, all Cornell students – any person, any study – are welcome, he said. 

Supported by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability’s Academic Venture Fund and its Innovation for Impact Fund, Csíkszentmihályi and his colleagues aim to create a multimedia user’s guide for community climate accountability and a toolkit of design specifications for software platforms to advance community-led climate justice.