Resnik Appointed to Coleridge Initiative Advisory Board

Jun 03, 2021

A University of Maryland expert in computational social science has been appointed to an advisory board for the Coleridge Initiative, a nonprofit organization that works with government agencies to ensure that data used in the public decision-making process is managed effectively and appropriately.

Philip Resnik, a professor of linguistics with a joint appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, joins a dozen other scientists and policy experts on the newly established Coleridge Initiative Science and Technology Advisory Board.

The advisory board will assist Coleridge Initiative staff working with government agencies—at the federal, state and local levels—in creating value for taxpayers via the careful use of data. It will also be active in building new technologies to enable the secure access and sharing of confidential microdata, and in the training of government agency staff to acquire modern data skills.

The Coleridge Initiative was established at New York University in 2016 and has since expanded to include collaboration with researchers at a dozen other academic institutions, including the University of Maryland.

“The Coleridge Initiative’s mission is all about using data effectively to support good decisions,” says Resnik, a computational linguist who is focused on data driven statistical modeling. “But a great deal of valuable data comes in the form of unstructured text. And dealing with language creates particular challenges for data privacy, information extraction, standardization and a whole host of other issues. I'm hoping to help navigate those issues.”

Resnik adds that while he is still learning the full range of the Coleridge Initiative’s activities, he believes his scientific knowledge can help in the organization’s efforts in connecting with the right people to engage on a problem, defining practical goals, identifying or building the right tools, and helping to build human capabilities through training.

“Traditional analytics involves structured data, but each of those steps takes on new dimensions when unstructured language data is involved,” he says. “I’m hoping I can help define what it means to bring text—and machine learning with text—more fully into the analytics ecosystem so that organizations can gain insight from the full range of information that’s available.”

For the past several years, Resnik has worked on machine learning and natural language processing in the context of mental health, which has led him to work through issues related to ethics, data privacy and how to build a research community around sensitive shared data.

This recent work led to him connecting with Julia Lane, the Coleridge Initiative’s co-founder and current director, who—according to Resnik—has done pioneering work on these topics.

Lane says that Resnik will make an excellent addition to the Coleridge Initiative’s advisory board.

“Solving today’s pressing economic and social issues is going to require new ideas and strategic approaches to collecting, sharing and working with unstructured and often sensitive text data,” she says. “We’re looking forward to Philip contributing his expertise in those areas.”

—Story by Melissa Brachfeld