The Policy & Data Science Program

The increasing availability of large data sets in every sector of industry and government have created exciting and urgent opportunities for policy-oriented data analysis. These opportunities, however, are widely unrealized, due in large part to the lack of individuals trained to work at the interface of policy and computational analysis.

The PODS Summer Program is a cutting-edge program that selects promising students and give them the technical skills to tackle Canada’s biggest policy problem, training a new generation of data-driven policy analysts.

PODS, presented in partnership between McGill’s Centre for Social and Cultural Data Science (CSCDS) and the Max Bell School of Public Policy, is the first program in Canada to address the important demand for policy experts skilled in gathering, manipulating and analyzing large datasets. It is an intensive three-month summer program in which students in non-technical majors are trained in core data science techniques, giving them the programming/hacking and quantitative skills to complement their substantive expertise in humanities and social sciences, to help them tackle complex policy problems. Students will be expected to do independent preparatory work during March, April, and May, focusing on building core quantitative analysis skills and building a familiarity with basic programming concepts.

The program is open to all McGill undergraduate students with non-technical backgrounds. As the program is a full-time, full summer commitment, each student will receive a stipend of $6000 over the three months of the program. 

Program Details

The PODS program runs from May to July and consists of two elements: 

  • Data Science Training (one month full-time intensive data science bootcamp): Students will learn concrete data analysis methods, such as study design, ethics and data visualization in R. Students will then integrate this knowledge with policy theory through independent work, discussions, and group projects. Students will also learn specific skills such as mapping, animations, and webscraping. 

  • Skills in Practice (two months full-time): Students apply their newly acquired skills to undertake research projects, hackathons, and policy labs for partner organizations. Students will have the chance to work collaboratively and independently on variety of complex issues. Throughout the program, the cohort will also have the chance to meet and hear from professionals, scholars, and activists working in the field of data. 

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