Research Contract: Pathways to Computer Science: Enabling Equity and Diversity

Research Contract: Pathways to Computer Science: Enabling Equity and Diversity, Google Research Contract. K. Falkner, C. Szabo, A. Szorenyi, and D. Michell. ($55,000) (2015-2016)

The underrepresentation of women in Computer Science (CS) remains a crucial problem despite significant efforts by both industry and academia to redress the issue. A large number of studies exist in the literature focusing on the reasons why female students do not take up Computer Science or do not stay, and how the pipeline, i.e., the path from kindergarten to university, is broken. To address this underrepresentation, industry and academia have invested significant funds across a number of outreach programs, designed to increase participation and change negative perceptions about the CS discipline.

However, what is missing is a clear understanding of the precise activities that are known to actually work, and – perhaps more importantly – identification of those activities that are ineffective. Despite this significant investment of funds, we are yet to see any significant increase in participation by women in the field. If we are to address this issue, we need to better understand what makes an outreach program effective, what programs or activities actually work in engaging women, and why they work.

This research project involves the creation of a visualisation and data collection online web application called Heatmap, collating data on enrolments (sourced from state authorities) and participation in outreach programs (sourced from outreach providers through an online data entry component). This tool will allow for the quick but also in-depth visualisation of the various collected statistics. Importantly, while this tool will be constructed for our specific purposes, the tool will be designed as an open framework, to support the open creation of equivalent heatmaps for different locations and datasets.

Tagged in CSER, research, computer and mathematical sciences