The IDEMS Podcast

10 Episodes

By: IDEMS International

Stories from a social enterprise that uses mathematical sciences in impact-oriented work around the world. Our experiences range from helping some of the world's poorest farmers get value from data, to enabling academics to use AI responsibly in their teaching. We never know what our next task will be but the last 6 years have shown that it is likely to lead to a story.

064 – Defining Simplicity: When Money Isn’t Enough
Last Friday at 11:30 AM

In episode “061 – Simplicity versus Complexity”, David claimed that if a problem is solvable by throwing money at it then it is not inherently complex or “wicked”. In this episode, Santiago challenges this claim via the thought experiment from another episode, “031 – Who Wants to be a Trillionaire”. This prompts a discussion that spans topics including the sustainable development goals, the unintended consequences of market fluctuations, how progress can exacerbate inequalities, and the intricate nature of “wicked” problems.

063 – Chris Sangwin: STACK
Last Tuesday at 2:15 PM

David talks to Chris Sangwin, creator of STACK, the online assessment system designed to support the teaching of university level mathematics. They review what makes STACK so useful and how they are collaborating on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership program. STACK presents huge opportunities to improve mathematical education at scale and Chris and David discuss how a separate, human system of question authoring experts are needed to support this.

062 – Revolutions in Data Collection

Open access software tools like ODK (Open Data Kit) have been a game changer in enabling access to digital data collection. Lucie and David discuss what makes ODK so interesting, and compare its development and use to that of R-Studio, another open access software that has made waves in data analysis. What will be the next step change in data collection? Does ODK’s impact represent an alternative model to that of “big bets” as the route to bring about large-scale change?

061 – Simplicity vs Complexity

IDEMS works on complex, real world problems, but what does complexity mean? Lucie and David discuss the concepts of simplicity and complexity, with David suggesting that mathematics can be seen as a realm of simplicity compared to the complex real world. They touch on the dangers of oversimplifying problems and highlight how modern research tends to overvalue simplicity.

060 – Teaching Data Science

In this episode, Lily and David consider foundational data skills in data science education. They discuss Lily's recent teaching experience at the doctoral training school in Kigali, Rwanda, as part of the AIMS initiative. The conversation explores the significance of teaching basic yet essential data handling and analysis skills to data science students, emphasising how these foundational abilities are often overlooked in conventional education but are critical in the real-world application of data science and responsible AI.

059 – Inception Meetings: IDEMS’ Pathways to Supporting Project Beginnings

How do you get a project off to a good start? In IDEMS’ Research Methods Support work for the Global Collaboration for Resilient Food Systems (CRFS) in West Africa, we facilitate Inception Meetings to support projects make the right decisions. David and Lucie reflect on 9 CRFS projects’ joint Inception Meetings held in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

058 – Farmer Research Networks

We’re used to participatory research with farmers, but what does scalable participatory farmer-focused research look like? Lucie and David discuss this principled approach to agroecological research, which has the potential to not only create great benefits for researchers and farmers alike, but to also shake up research systems and power dynamics between researchers and the community.

057 – Empowering Mathematics Educators with STACK

Santiago Borio and David Stern discuss STACK, an open-source online assessment tool for mathematics and STEM subjects. They explore how STACK can provide scalable and effective feedback across diverse educational settings, emphasizing its success in universities with large class sizes and limited resources, particularly in Kenya and other similar environments. They reflect on the value of community in open source educational initiatives.

056 – Responsible Research and Modelling

Lily Clements and David Stern discuss their recent collaboration with a PhD student on complex data modelling. They highlight the challenges of accurate statistical interpretation, the importance of responsible research practices, and the need for more accessible modelling tools. Their conversation underscores the significance of improving data skills to enhance the reliability of research and AI applications.

055 – Scalability vs Sustainability in IDEMS Internships

Santiago Borio and David Stern delve into the distinctions between scalability and sustainability within IDEMS’s internship models. They debate the potential for internships to drive significant societal and economic changes, particularly in rural African settings, by fostering economic growth through digital opportunities. The conversation also examines how these scalable initiatives could profoundly influence both local and global economies across various resource environments, presenting a unique model to create opportunities for future generations.