Archives for February 17, 2022

Generating evidence and tools to support social change

Data Sciences Institute Inequity Thematic Program

The Data Sciences Institute (DSI) is excited to announce co-leads for its Thematic Program in Inequity. The availability of new and diverse data in each of these domains has transformed traditional disciplines, encouraging researchers to address pressing questions in innovative, data-driven ways. The opportunity to link these new resources with socioeconomic and demographic data, and to co-develop research projects with under-resourced communities, helps researchers use more data-driven approaches to understand social inequities and empower communities.

“With the Inequity Thematic Program, we hope to encourage the generation of evidence and tools to enhance our understanding of inequity and support equitable social change,” says Timothy Chan, DSI associate director of research and thematic programming. “This is relevant across disciplines, whether it’s the social sciences, the humanities, health sciences, or physical sciences.”

Earlier this year, the DSI had a call for research co-leads for its DSI Inequity Program. Professors Angelina Grigoryeva, Arjumand Siddiqi and Azadeh Yadollahi, the three co-leads, bring a broad disciplinary perspective and will have substantial flexibility in developing the Program and activities. These can include supporting scholarly exchange (workshops, conferences, seminars), organizing new research collaborations, and supporting applications for substantial funding opportunities. Several of the DSI’s recently announced Catalyst Grant awards focus on using the transformative nature of data sciences to address inequities and drive positive social change.

“The DSI encourages innovative data science methodology development and application in these areas by offering support and funding for research efforts and programming. We are very excited to serve as co-leads and work with DSI member researchers to create opportunities for exchange and learning,” says Angelina Grigoryeva, one of the co-leads.

The co-leads plan to bring together DSI member researchers to better understand their interests and needs, conduct a grant writing session, develop a speaker series, and, importantly, facilitate informal presentations and networking with the community.

Meet the Inequity Co-Leads

Angelina Grigoryeva is an assistant professor for the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She is also a member of the DSI Research & Academics Committee. She researches social stratification and inequality. More specifically she focuses on patterns of wealth, race and gender inequality and examines household economic lives in the context of large-scale socio-economic transformations, with a focus on both between- and within-household inequalities.

Angelina’s current work focuses on the social implications of the large-scale shift towards finance-based capitalism in North America. More specifically, she examines how families became increasingly involved in financial markets in recent decades, how access to financial markets remains socially stratified, and the consequences for growing wealth inequality.

Angelina dreams of leveling the playing field and addressing growing inequality. “What we do know is that inequality in North America, in the United States and Canada alike, has been on the rise. It has been increasing steadily in the past several decades, and it doesn’t look like this trend will reverse anytime soon based on what we see today.”

Arjumand Siddiqi is the Canada Research Chair in Population Health Equity and a professor and the Division Head of Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She works as a social epidemiologist. This is the study of how social factors contribute to health and disease over a period of time.

“We want to know what’s happening in society and specifically, we’re trying to figure out how that’s influencing health. So, what are the large societal dynamics that are at play?” she says.

Her work looks at what inequality looks like, and who is holding the power. However, she’s not looking at individuals. Instead, she’s looking for groups and that’s why the data becomes important. She’s looking at the population level and trying to figure out what’s happening differently.

“I love that when you look at the data and you try to answer questions, it actually leads to other questions. Sometimes it’s frustrating because you can’t solve everything you want to solve, but in some ways, it’s exciting that you can kind of start to at least get a sense of what we don’t know, which is important.”

Azadeh Yadollahi is a Canada Research Chair, a senior scientist at KITE, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, at the University Health Network, as well as an associate professor at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at U of T. Her area of research is health equity and sleep. More specifically she develops technologies, often wearable technologies, to monitor physiological signals, and assess sleep-related breathing problems, such as sleep apnea or snoring.

She works with underserved communities, for example, those experiencing homelessness. She hopes her work will change current policies for diagnosing and treating sleep apnea for these populations because a lot of the policies require individuals to come and sleep in a lab to get treatment, which is not always possible. She also hopes to raise awareness about sleep problems.

“I am very passionate to make a meaningful impact in the lives of individuals who are socially and systematically disadvantaged and do not have equitable access to care.”