American Family Funding Initiative awards third round of data science research funding

The American Family Insurance Data Science Institute announced the results of the third round of the American Family Funding Initiative, a research competition for data science projects. American Family Insurance has partnered with the University of Wisconsin–Madison through the Institute to offer mini-grants of $75,000-to-$150,000, with the goal of stimulating and supporting innovative data science research on campus.

Since its inception in the spring of 2020, this initiative has awarded nearly three million dollars to 21 teams of UW–Madison faculty and collaborators. The third round of funding includes projects led by CALS faculty:

Reducing Bias in Human-AI Conversation (PI: Kaiping Chen, Department of Life Sciences Communication)
AI models that power intelligent assistants like Google Home and other chatbots may produce responses biased towards dominant groups, while marginalizing the needs of underrepresented populations. This project seeks to mitigate inequality in AI decision-making through reducing unfairness in the algorithms that power chatbot responses.

Facilitating Wildfire Insurance Business with Big Data and Machine Learning (PI: Min Chen, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology)
Recent wildfires across the western US have caused enormous environmental hazards and economic losses. This project will prototype a machine learning framework, modeled on fires in California, that will improve prediction of wildfire probability and severity at daily, weekly, and monthly scales.

Overall, nine projects were selected in the third round of this initiative. The call for proposals for a fourth round of awards will be announced early in 2022.

AFIDSI brings people together to launch new research in data science and apply findings to solve problems. In collaboration with researchers across campus and beyond, AFIDSI focuses on the fundamentals of data science research and on translating that research into practice.

More information about this initiative and data science at UW-Madison is available at