Data for Good Exchange 2019 Preview: Planet Track

Data for Good Exchange 2019's "Planet" track looks at the use of data science to tackle Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) protecting the planet from degradation.
Photo Credit: Francisco Jesús Navarro Hernández - Unsplash

The Data for Good Exchange 2019 conference will take place on Sunday, September 15, 2019, at Bloomberg’s Global Headquarters in New York City. This year, the conference theme is “Data Science for the SDGs” or how data scientists, corporations, policymakers, and researchers can collaborate on data science projects that will move us toward achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. These 17 goals are structured around the five pillars of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – People, Peace, Prosperity, Planet and Partnership – which were adopted by all UN Member States at the historic UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015.

In this third of 4 articles previewing this year’s conference, we take a look at the panels, workshops, and presentations in the conference’s Planet Track. The conference sessions in this track tackle some or all of the following SDGs:


We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.

10-10:45 AM
Panel #1: SDG 14 and Beyond: The Rising Tide of Data Science to Build Sustainable Oceans

While the oceans comprise the majority of our planet and can be intimately tied to the success of most of the SDGs, they are very often underrepresented in conversations about how best to achieve the targeted outcomes of the SDGs overall. Panelists from NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology, The Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, CEA Consulting, DataKind, and Pelagic Data Systems will delve into the many ways data science is advancing the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 14.

This rich panel will includes perspectives from across government, academia, industry, and NGOs. It will highlight the diverse aspects of SDG 14 that directly benefit from data science (i.e., fisheries, marine protected areas, pollution, the effects of climate change, including ocean acidification, etc.). Panelists will draw on their diverse backgrounds and experiences to share enriching perspectives on how data science augments their work to advance SDG 14, as well as provide context for the numerous ways in which the oceans are intimately linked to a wide variety of other SDGs that are benefitting from this work.

The panel will consist of short presentations from each panelist to provide an overview of the multi-faceted issue at hand (including sufficient context to stimulate discussion regarding the intersection of SDG 14 with other sustainable development goals) and an introduction to the array of data-driven initiatives currently underway in the real world within diverse sectors. This will lay the foundation for a rich discussion surrounding the opportunities to augment successes through deeper collaborative approaches, and the potential for using data science to create win-win situations that benefit the aims of multiple SDGs simultaneously.

11:00 AM-12:00 PM
Workshop #1: Data science to help save coral reefs

Achieving SDG 14 requires a transformation in ocean conservation and management to ensure the well-being of ocean environments and the millions of people who rely on them for livelihoods (SDG 1), food security (SDG 2) and well-being (SDG 3). Led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund, this workshop will focus on how data science can be used to protect coral reefs — one of the most imperiled ocean ecosystems in urgent need of climate action and strategic management. Data science projects and ‘big data’ for coral reefs can support evidence-based policies to protect coral reefs from local to global scales. To achieve this, environmental and socioeconomic coral reef data must be rapidly collected, analyzed, and shared.

This workshop will focus on the emerging open source MERMAID toolkit, which is being used to collect coral reef data worldwide. Participants will discuss how to share and present data to influence policy action by inviting perspectives from diverse interdisciplinary sectors (e.g., finance, public sector, technology, etc.) to help leverage and apply the structured ecological and socioeconomic data being collected by coral reef experts towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

12:15-1:00 PM
Paper Presentations

  • Citizen science and data integration for understanding marine litter (presented by Jillian Campbell, Anne Bowser, Dilek Fraisl and Metis Meloche)
  • Automated water usage anomaly detection: From concept model to field validation (presented by Allen Chen, Max Cho, Monobina Mukherjee, Anudeep Vanjavakam, Rachael Weiss Riley and Rick Zhan)
  • Optimizing waste management collection routes: A collaboration between SOIL & DataKind (presented by Michael Dowd)
  • Water affordability and price progressivity in U.S. cities (presented by Maria Perez-Urdiales and Samuele Centorrino)
  • Animal wildlife population estimation using social media image collections (presented by Matteo Foglio, Lorenzo Semeria, Guido Muscioni, Riccardo Pressiani and Tanya Berger-Wolf)

2:00-2:45 PM
Panel #2: Using Data for Meaningful Climate Governance, Opportunities and Challenges

This panel will bring perspectives across the fields of data science, policy making, engineering, and climate concerns with a focus on planetary health. Panelists from Stevens Institute of Technology, Brooklyn College, and the New York Climate Change Science Clearinghouse, will touch on the state of environmental data accessibility and transparency, current data strategies and approaches used by governmental decision makers, and opportunities to better inform policy with data science.

3:00-4:00 PM
Workshop #2: Building a Digital Ecosystem for the Planet: Data Sources, Data Science and AI

Our planet is rich with natural resources, interconnected and ever-changing – both for better and for worse. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define how to understand and address those changes and their impacts through 2030 and beyond. With the SDGs’ distinct indicators and discrete timeline, countries, the private sector, and other actors need to be able to track progress for investment, interaction, and more.

Yet the harsh reality is that 68 percent of environment-related SDG indicators lack sufficient data (UN Environment, 2019). Powerful data solutions powered by digital technologies – from citizen science on marine litter to real-time global dashboards on atmospheric quality – aim to fill those gaps, but require significant catalysts and coordination to be realized.

In this workshop, representatives of UN Environment, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS), the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and leaders in research, business, and advocacy will discuss how a digital ecosystem for the environment can help close environmental data gaps.

4:05 PM-4:50 PM
Data for Good Exchange Immersion Fellows’ Presentation – Natural Areas Conservancy