CRCS Workshop on AI for Social impact


Thu - Fri, Mar 5 to Mar 6, 9:00am - 5:00pm


Harvard Faculty Club Reading Room (20 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA)


The Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) Workshop on AI for Social Impact is a two-day event for junior researchers featuring talks and panel discussions from leaders in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Public Health, and Conservation who are actively engaged in deployed interdisciplinary AI research across the globe. PhD students and Postdoctoral scholars whose research is related to emerging or deployed applications of AI for Social Impact are invited to submit applications to present their work. We also encourage early-stage PhD students to apply who may not have presentations but who are interested in attending. Limited travel funding is available.

Over the course of two days, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from our keynote speakers from cross-cutting domains. Our speakers will also sit on panels with other experts from CRCS, Harvard, and the greater Boston area, engaging in such discussions as “What does it mean to create social impact with AI research?”

Attendees will present their work in one of two formats:

  1. Lightning talk plus poster session.

    We highly encourage attendees to consider these sessions as opportunities to identify new peers and collaborators who share common research or application domain interests.

  2. Conference-length talk.

    Selected senior PhD students and Postdoctoral scholars who submit extended abstracts will be chosen to give conference-length talks on a mature AI for Social Impact project.

Attendees will also participate in one interactive session each day:

  1. Rump session on domain-specific AI for Social Impact.

    Attendees will break out into domain-specific groups to discuss AI for Social Impact within specific application domains of interest. Discussions will be led by facilitators and will culminate with a note-sheet that will be published on the workshop website.

  2. Faculty mentoring session.

    Attendees will be matched in small groups with CRCS faculty to discuss research, the challenges of navigating the emerging field of AI for Social Impact, and more.

The workshop will pay special focus on the development of deployed applications. Attendees will learn from our speakers and panelists about the challenges related to deployment such as building successful interdisciplinary partnerships, translating unexpected challenges of real-world deployment into technical AI problems, and publishing deployed work.

We look forward to seeing you in March!

Tentative Schedule

Thursday, March 5

09:00 - 09:30 : Breakfast and Welcome

09:30 - 10:15 : Keynote : Indrani Medhi Thies

10:15 - 10:30 : Coffee Break

10:30 - 11:15 : Lightning Talks

11:15 - 12:15 : Long Talks

12:15 - 13:15 : Lunch

13:15 - 14:00 : Keynote : Patrick Fowler

14:00 - 15:00 : Panel : What is Social Impact?

15:00 - 16:30 : Faculty Mentoring Session

16:30 - 17:00 : Lightning Talks

17:00 - 18:15 : Poster Session

18:30 onwards : Dinner

Friday, March 6

09:00 - 09:30 : Breakfast

09:30 - 10:15 : Keynote : Matthew Ferrari

10:15 - 10:30 : Coffee Break

10:30 - 11:30 : Lightning Talks

11:30 - 12:30 : Long Talks

12:30 - 13:30 : Lunch

13:30 - 14:30 : Panel : Topic TBD

14:30 - 15:30 : Poster Session

15:30 - 16:30 : Breakout Sessions

16:30 - 17:00 : Closing Remarks

Speakers & Panelists

Keynote Speakers

  • Indrani Medhi Thies, Senior Researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group of Microsoft Research
  • Patrick Fowler, Associate Professor of Social Work at the Brown School of Washington University
  • Matthew Ferrari, Associate Professor of Biology at Penn State University


  • Milind Tambe, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University
  • Erez Yoeli, Research Associate at MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School 
  • Susan Murphy, Professor of Statistics at Harvard University
  • Desmond Patton, Associate Professor of Social Work at Columbia University

Faculty Mentors

Presentation guidelines

We have 60 participants and also expect a number of other students/faculty to drop in. The majority come from a CS background, a number from stats/engineering/math, and a small handful from law/policy/social work/public health. In terms of degree of expertise, ~40 are PhD students, ~10 are undergrad/masters, and ~10 are post-docs/industry researchers.

In your talk, we encourage you to emphasize the social impact (either deployed or potential) of your work and discuss any particular challenges you've experienced when working closely with the domain. Long talk Each talk will be allotted a 15-minute slot, which you should plan as a 12-minute talk and 3 minutes for questions/transition.

We also encourage you to bring a poster to present during the poster sessions. Lightning Talk + Poster: The lightning talk will serve as a quick intro to your work to market yourself and encourage people to learn more at your poster later. Then the poster should be an aid to discuss the AI for Social Impact-style challenges you face in your work. We encourage you to focus on the interdisciplinary/deployment/stakeholder issues you face in your work more so than the detailed technical aspects, but it will also be of interest to other AI researchers what kind of models you are using etc.

Lightning Talk Format

In order to give everyone equal time to present during the lightning talks, the session will be formatted as follows:

  • 3 minutes per presenter
  • Present-in-place (organizer will walk the microphone to you)
  • All session slides will be on organizer’s laptop
  • Organizer will click through your slides

Lightning Talk Requirements

  • 3 minutes max
  • 3 slides max
  • Must send slides in PDF format to by 11:59pm EST March 4.
  • Slides will be compiled on the organizer's laptop the night before the lightning talks, so no need to bring your laptop. In order to give everyone time to present, there will be no exceptions to this. You may not use your own laptop :)

Poster Session Format

The poster session will be formatted as follows:

  • Each lighting talk is accompanied with a poster presentation on the same day. Please see the Schedule section below for the assignments.
  • You will be allocated a space where you present your poster.
  • The organizers also provide poster boards and easels.
  • If you require special assistance, please notify one of the organizers in advance.

Poster Session Requirements

  • Please print your poster and bring it with you. In case you are not able to print the poster, you may contact one of the organizers for assistance.
  • There are no strict format requirements for the posters, however, we recommend poster size of 60 in * 40 in (landscape or portrait). For additional guidance, consult the template provided by CVPR 2019, which also includes advice on designing a good poster.

Important dates

  • Submission deadline: Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Decision date: Friday, January 17. 2020
  • Registration deadline: Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Deadline to Submit Lightning Talk Slides: Wednesday March 4, 2020
  • CRCS Workshop on AI for Social Impact: Thursday, March 5 and Friday, March 6, 2020


  1. Gather junior researchers working on interdisciplinary projects with societal impact to network, foster collaboration, and share ideas and experiences.
  2. Gather experts from Public Health, Conservation and Computer Science to share their impactful work and engage in a dialogue about what it means to make social impact with research.
  3. Create a forum for the discussion of what it means to make social impact with interdisciplinary AI research.

Why attend?

Network with like-minded researchers dedicated to social impact. Present your research and get feedback from peers as well as leading experts from AI, public health, and conservation. Share your thoughts and experiences about what it means to have social impact with your research.

Submission Information

All submissions must be through the CMT Submission site. Please submit PDFs of (1) your CV, and (2) your application from one of the three options below.

We invite 3 types of applications from PhD students and Postdoctoral scholars:

  1. 1-paragraph abstract describing research related to AI for Society. Topics include, but are not limited to: Public Health, Conservation, Medicine/Mobile Health, Education, and Agriculture. We highly encourage submissions from students in Computer Science as well as related interdisciplinary fields. Accepted submissions will be given a slot for a lightning talk+poster presentation.
  2. 1-page abstract describing a mature AI for Social Impact project, with an emphasis on deployed applications. Topics include, but are not limited to: Public Health, Conservation, Medicine/Mobile Health, Education, and Agriculture. We highly encourage submissions from students in Computer Science as well as related interdisciplinary fields. Six submissions will be selected to give 15-minute talks during the workshop. Preference will be given to senior PhD students and Postdoctoral scholars. Submissions not selected for 15-minute talks will be considered for lightning talks+poster presentations.
  3. 1-paragraph statement describing why you would like to attend the workshop, how it relates to your work so far, and how it will benefit you as a researcher. This is intended for early-stage PhD students who do not have research to present but who are interested in attending the workshop and engaging in discussions. 

All applications from eligible students received by the submission deadline will be considered for travel awards.

We also invite undergraduate students from the local Boston area to apply, though they will not be considered for travel funding. Interested undergraduates should submit either a one-paragraph abstract or statement (in the styles described above).

Submit your application here:

Travel awards

Limited travel funding is available, under the following stipulations.

  1. Travel expenses will be reimbursed up to $500 per participant.
  2. Accommodations will be provided for out-of-town participants.
  3. We encourage those within a reasonable distance to drive, and carpool if possible.

Organizing Committee

Please send any questions or comments to

Faculty advisory committee