Brett Drake, an expert on child welfare, has been installed as the inaugural Professor of Data Science for the Social Good in Practice at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
An installation ceremony took place April 13 in Hillman Hall.
“We know data science is extremely important in our professions, and have elevated data science and technology as a strategic priority in our strategic plan, ‘Driving Equity 2030,’” said Rodrigo Reis, professor and interim co-dean of the Brown School. “Brett is a leader at our school, committed to advancing our capacity to train students and in our ability to make date accessible for both internal and external research. Brett is also leading the way for how we use big data in the practice field of child welfare.”
“I have had the pleasure of working with Brett for over two decades at the Brown School, and I’ve learned a few things over that 23 years,” said Tonya Edmond, professor and interim co-dean of the Brown School. “He is someone who believe deeply in science, and that it what fuels his love of debates. He wants us to be scientifically driven in the decisions that we make because he knows what’s at stake. I can think of no better person and no better chair that would be suited for Professor Drake than this one.”
Drake researches matters of child welfare with a focus on early intervention cases of child neglect as well as the connections between socio-environmental conditions and child neglect. His current research analyzes census and child protective data to assess the efficacy of protective and preventative services.
“Brett is a renowned scholar in the area of child abuse and neglect who seamlessly weaves data analysis into his work,” said Beverly Wendland, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “I am pleased that we are able to recognize his commitment to children and to science with this important professorship.”
Drake uses large data sets to answer questions about how Child Protective Services functions at the “front end.” He studies reporting, substantiation and foster care placement, with particular attention to poverty, race and ethnicity.
Drake is also interested in making big data more accessible to practitioners and policymakers, and in using it to inform policy and practice. He teaches courses predominantly focused on child maltreatment and research methods areas, and he has published numerous articles in these areas along with books co-authored by Melissa Jonson-Reid, the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work Research at the Brown School.
Drake’s work is informed by his time as a Child Protective Services worker. He has a particular interest in the ethical, theoretical and philosophical aspects of social work research. He consults with a number of state and local agencies regarding evaluation and administrative data.