Skip to main content

Student-driven program gives valuable insight to charities

17 May 2021

People interacting via Zoom
The DataAid team, leading the event via Zoom.

PhD students from Cardiff’s School of Physics and Astronomy have taken part in an event part of the wider DataAid initiative, seeing them deliver key benefits to non-profits.

DataAid is a program to connect PhD students to charity partners, delivering skills-based giving to help charity partners ‘start, navigate and expand their data journeys’.

The first event of the DataAid program was held in January this year. It saw Cardiff University link with four other universities based in Wales and the South West, as PhD students worked with UK charities to solve real world data problems.

Students came from two CDTs: the DI-CDT (Data Intensive Centre for Doctoral Training) and AIMLAC (Centre for Doctoral training in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Advanced Computing).

A hack-a-thon event took place for three charities - The Fairtrade Foundation, The Diana Award and Chance to Shine - each set up with a team of 7-9 students and led by a student.

During the event, teams of volunteer analysts worked on a series of problems presented by the charity partners and then shared their findings at a wrap-up session.

The event was an opportunity for charities to gain new understanding of the data they hold, empowering them to improve their data capabilities going forward.

Chance to Shine told us,

“We have big and rich data, but we do not have the expertise nor time to examine our data in detail.

The analysts who worked on our data have provided us with advanced analysis and techniques e.g., looking at correlations between different variables such as gender, age, locations of projects etc.

The  valuable analyses will support our narratives in funding applications and communication to wider audiences. Overall, we had a very positive experience and rewarding findings.”

Not only was the event of benefit to the charities, but also for the students involved.

Organising a large-scale event built key skills, as they coordinated universities with charity partners, arranged secure data transfer and storage, and organised advertising, planning, and recruiting for the event.

Students found their self-esteem and confidence boosted because of this rewarding experience:

“It was amazing being able to apply what we have learned in university and being able to help charities! Not only did we improve our current skills, but we also developed our leadership, organisation and communication skills.” - AIMLAC CDT Student.

A CDT Representative shared,

“Our CDTs offer students opportunities both to acquire state-of-the art skills and techniques in data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and to gain valuable workplace experience with external partners, all while conducting cutting-edge scientific research leading to a doctoral degree.

We have run many specialised training events across the five universities, but DataAid stands out for being student-led, and driven by a keen sense of social responsibility during difficult times. We are very proud of what our students’ energy and expertise have achieved.” -

The event was supported by The Giving Department, a consultancy who work in collaboration with charities, industry partners and academics to connect expertise across domains for social change. Supercomputing Wales also set-up the remote server for secure data storage and provided Research Software Engineers at the event to assist students.

Share this story

There are so many reasons to choose physics and astronomy at Cardiff University.