In 2017, applied mathematician and data scientist Chad Topaz learned from artist colleagues about the dearth of works by women and people of color in major museum collections. Topaz asked about the extent of underrepresentation and learned that no one had identified a means of quantitatively assessing the issue on a broad scale. Using innovative data collection, modeling, and analysis techniques, Topaz and collaborators were able, for the first time, to discover the demographics of artists in the permanent collections of major U.S. museums. The results reveal a problem even worse than art experts had imagined, and led to broad press coverage and collaboration with several museums.
With eyes open to the power of quantitative approaches to address injustice, Topaz and Jude Higdon co-founded QSIDE in 2019. QSIDE is the pre-eminent research-into-action network applying mathematics, data science, and computation to social justice. We find and secure data that is difficult to aggregate or is intentionally obscured. We analyze and model it using cutting-edge techniques. We partner with activists to make meaningful change.