By Ellen Simpson, Watt Women
The Watt Women in STEM society was invited to attend the 2022 Data Summit on the theme of “Hope” on the 3rd of November with tickets kindly provided by Equate Scotland. Other society members and I arrived in the morning to join a packed queue of industry professionals and were welcomed with tea and coffee before a short reception from the event organisers at DataFest.
The first keynote speaker on the Innovation Stage was space scientist and science educator Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, well known for her role on the BBC’s Sky at Night program. She spoke about her childhood dreams of going to space, the challenges she faces with her dyslexia and her achievements from a career in STEM, including recently working on a component for NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope. Her passion for learning about and educating others on the many wonders of science was inspiring.
The next talk was from Stephanie Hare who spoke about the role of ethics in the tech sector. She spoke about the dangers of creating and releasing technological innovations on society without fully considering the ethical implications. For example, racial biases in AI face recognition software and the lack of legislation around its potential use in policing. She spoke convincingly about the importance of diverse teams in tech being necessary to create better products and her discussion about the “neutrality” of AI software using arguments of various well-known industry leaders was thought provoking.
Throughout the day we attended various other talks on topics such as diversity, inclusion, and equality in data, healthcare, and space. We also listened panels discussing the future of work, the future of Web3 and the practical applications of AI and we took part in a workshop on data upskilling.
The conference included an area for various organisations using data science to have stands demonstrating their products and supplying information about the work they do. There was a wide range of sectors represented including robotics, teaching, healthcare, space, charity work, and law. One company spoke to us about their large language model which was capable of writing standard documentation for legal processes after being given a few prompts by the user. Personally, this was one of the highlights of the summit as I had just covered this topic in a lecture the previous day and seeing the theory behind my course being put into practice in industry was fascinating.
The final keynote speaker of the day was Professor Hannah Fry who is mathematics lecturer and science broadcaster. She discussed the issue of data bias in the sector and the potential for harm when mishandled or amplified. She discussed examples of bias in tech such as AI recruitment software which was much less likely to hire mothers compared to women without children or men, and a system to allocate financial aid for healthcare which attempted to avoid racial bias but just amplified the problem. She also discussed her own experiences of being a woman studying in the male dominated field of mathematics and the importance of diverse role models in to encourage more people to study and work in STEM.
Lastly, we want to give a huge thank you to Equate Scotland for providing us with the tickets for the Data Summit 2022 and giving our members the amazing opportunity to learn more about the data sector from so many passionate speakers and experts. We would also like to thank the event sponsors for putting on such a great conference and inspiring us to look at potential careers in data science.
Guest Blog by Ellen Simpson, part of Watt Women in STEM committee as Outreach Coordinator