Social Good

Science for Social Good: Science in Service of Humanity

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Social responsibility has become a growing movement, with 64 percent of CEOs planning to increase investment in corporate social responsibility. Today, Fortune 500 companies alone give more than $15 billion annually towards finding solutions for global challenges and offer a breadth of volunteer programs, which allow their employees to contribute to communities where they live or work.

At IBM, corporate responsibility dates back to the earliest days of the company. In the 1910s, IBM President Thomas J. Watson Sr. challenged employees to share their time and talents with their communities. Decades later, IBM expanded on this tradition by developing the On Demand Community, through which more than 280,000 IBMers have engaged in improving their communities.

Science for Social Good

IBM's Science for Social Good initiative aims to tackle the world's toughest problems with science and technology. Explore the 2017 projects: http://ibm.biz/ScienceForSocialGood

Posted by IBM on Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Many of our corporate responsibility programs were born from the realization that checkbook philanthropy or short-term interventions don’t always make an enduring impact; that oftentimes, addressing big issues requires engaging more deeply and broadly. Some of our recent initiatives include: P-Tech, where we are reinventing education by bringing together the best elements of high school, college and the professional world; Teacher Advisor, powered by IBM Watson, to support teachers in improving teaching and student achievement; The Jefferson Project, which deploys IoT and data analytics to protect fresh waters; and IBM Health Corps which helps partner organizations expand health access and improve outcomes with analytics and cognitive technologies.

Our latest endeavor pushes this idea even further. Our newly announced Science for Social Good program is an important scientific commitment in that direction. It is also a new model of giving back — with science. In this program we will work closely with organizations (NGOs, public sector agencies, social enterprises) that are on the forefront of big societal challenges to learn and take inspiration from the problems they are tackling.

We will then mobilize the passions and skills of our scientists to seek solutions. And we will award short- and long-term fellowships, and invite emerging scientists, graduate and undergraduate students to join us in our labs, and work together with our teams on one of our social good projects.

Detecting new diseases before they emerge, tackling climate change, improving agriculture yield to grow more crops while protecting the environment, addressing poverty and breaking the chain of human trafficking — to move the needle on these and other of the world’s most pressing problems requires continual scientific and technological advances.

With 3,000 scientists in 12 labs around the world — and with a 70-year history of innovation that includes FORTRAN, fractals, the floppy disk and hard drive, relational databases, RISC architecture, the bar code, laser eye surgery, Deep Blue and Watson — I believe that no company, no organization is better equipped to take on these challenges than IBM Research.

I have to admit that when in 2016 we ran the pilot of the program, there were a lot of unknowns. “Will NGOs be interested in collaborating with us?” “Will students apply?” “Will we get enough scientist to volunteer?” We announced the program and the fellowships on Twitter and waited. In less than a month more than 300 students applied! And we interviewed 150 NGOs!

Over the course of the first six projects, 36 researchers volunteered their time, working side by side with the fellows. We went on a hunt for the Zika virus using machine learning, applied causal modeling to study innovation, and modeled the space of global development. We developed an API for automatic identification of humanitarian disasters, studied the impact of outreach actions on how children in rural Africa receive treatment for diarrhea, and developed cognitive capabilities for an open data science platform.

This year we will execute a broad portfolio of projects from detecting new diseases, to addressing hunger, to helping people out of poverty, to reducing violence and making cities safer. By doing all of this, we hope to advance the awareness, the technology, the community and the science. Step by step, project by project, invention by invention. Because we know that big problems are not solved overnight. They require sustained commitment of many stakeholders, a lot of hard work, and a stream of successes (and failures).

Behind every moonshot there is a sequence of uncharted journeys, and we hope to launch many of them. To learn more about the program including 2017 fellowship positions or interest in how to partner with us, visit https://www.research.ibm.com/science-for-social-good/

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