Neil S. Gaikwad
Neil S. Gaikwad

Neil Gaikwad

Data, Computations, and Just Public Policy
Doctoral Scholar in Human-centered Machine Learning and Public Policy for Sustainable Development
MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

नील गायकवाड
camera exploreThePlanetEarth

Research Interests
Human-centered machine learning and public policy for sustainable development, market mechanism design, computational social science

Research Vision
Theory, design, and implementation of human-centered machine learning and public policy, with a focus on sustainable development. Over the centuries, socio-technical systems such as market institutions, food systems, operations management systems, and humanitarian systems have been instrumental in social, economic, and environmental sustainability. However, physical processes such as natural disasters and socio-economic processes such as inequalities, black-box decision making, and historical biases in these systems continue to threaten sustainability. My research seeks to decode the fundamental nature of underlying physical and socio-economic processes on sustainability through the lens of human-centered machine learning, participatory design, and evidence-based policymaking. Drawing upon this understanding, I design, build, and deploy human-centered AI for increasing equity and transparency in high-stake sustainable development policy decisions in socio-technical systems. My research and its practical relevance are informed by human-centered ML and policy research in academia, quantitative finance and market risk research on Wall Street, and field research with vulnerable communities in different parts of the world. These experiences enable me to think that fundamental discoveries in AI for Sustainability can emerge from research at the confluence of computations, participatory design, and socio-economic thinking.

Selected Awards & Honors

Research and Innovation
  • Facebook Research Fellowship, 2019
  • INK Fellow Emerging Innovator, 2019
  • Microsoft Research Fellowship Finalist
  • Best Paper Honorable Mention, UIST 2017
  • MIT Graduate Teaching Award, 2018
  • MIT Kaufman Teaching Certificate, 2017
  • Karl Taylor Compton Prize, 2019, MIT's Highest Student Award
Professional Service
  • Distinguished PC, IJCAI 2018
  • CHI 2020 Special Recognition, Outstanding Reviews
  • CHI 2019 Special Recognition, Outstanding Reviews
  • The MIT Arts Scholars
  • National Geographic Photo of the Day


Neil Gaikwad is a doctoral scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specializing in human-centered machine learning and public policy for sustainable development. He develops data-driven human-AI collaboration algorithms and social computing systems for sustainable development, with a focus on increasing fairness and transparency in public policy decisions, analyzing large-scale datasets emerging from Earth remote sensing satellites and socio-economic processes. He earned a master's degree from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked at the Robotics Institute. At MIT, he works with Professor Danielle Wood.

Neil's current research focuses on enhancing fairness and transparency in policy decision making in global food and humanitarian systems. He is developing Global Farm Pulse, a human-centered machine learning system, to better understand the adverse impact of underlying physical processes and socio-economic policies on global food security under climate extremes. Drawing upon this understanding, he is designing equitable market mechanisms and policies to support vulnerable farmers and decision-makers to mitigate the consequence of meteorological disasters and socio-economic breakdowns. This research is supported by the MIT Quest for Intelligence, an institute-wide initiative on Artificial Intelligence.

Neil’s research has been published in artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction conferences (AAAI, ACM UIST, ACM CSCW, ACM CHI) and a scientific journal (PNAS), and featured in the New York Times, Bloomberg, WIRED, and The Wall Street Journal. Some of the examples of his societal computing and socio-economic sustainability research include Daemo, a self-governed crowdsourcing market, and EteRNA, a crowd-computing system that harnesses massive scale human-machine collaboration to help solve inverse RNA folding problem that neither humans nor machines can solve alone. He is one of the principal creators and founding members of Daemo and EteRNA. He led Daemo's technical architecture and invented Boomerang, an incentive-compatible reputation system. His foundational contributions draw on fundamentals from game theory (incentive mechanism design for pro-social behavior in online markets), structured finance (a tranche structure for guilds in online markets), and human-centered design (task composition in online markets). His research ideas and computational systems have been deployed and used by people across the world. Daemo has been used to create the SQuAD, Stanford's reading comprehension dataset (over 100,000+ question-answer pairs) for Natural Language Processing. EteRNA has reached over 100,000 citizen scientists who help invent medicine through RNA design and listed as one of the 25 great ideas from CMU's School of Computer Science. Before MIT he was a chief data scientist in quantitative finance and risk management on Wall Street, where he developed mathematical models and analytics systems for portfolio management.

Neil is one of the founders and chairs of the SIGKDD workshop on Humanitarian Mapping, and co-organizer of the Computational Sustainability Open Graduate Seminars. One of the major missions of his life is to democratize STEAM opportunities to empower people across the globe. He was one of the core members of the Stanford Crowd Research Initiative and part of the MIT's Innovating for Billions in Emerging Worlds Leadership Council. Some of his honors include the Facebook Research PhD Fellowship Award, MIT Graduate Teaching Award, presented annually to one MIT professor or teaching assistant from each school, for excellence in teaching a graduate-level course, and the Karl Taylor Compton Prize, the highest student award presented by MIT. He is a TEDx speaker, and his talk presents the vision for just markets in the era of Artificial Intelligence.

Selected News

  • (04) 2020 —— ACM KDD Humanitarian Mapping Workshop accepted
  • (03) 2020 —— Moderated panel on AI Fairness, Societal Impact, and Governance (Cynthia Dwork, Milind Tambe, Jonathan Zittrain) at the Harvard CRCS.
  • (02) 2020 —— Program Committee Computational Sustainability Graduate Seminar Series, a part of CompSustNet, with support from the NSF's' Expeditions in Computing.
  • (10) 2019 —— Talk at the Oak Ridge National Lab.
  • (09) 2019 —— Program Committee NeurIPS 2019 ML4D Workshop and AAAI-20 Conference on AI.
  • (05) 2019 —— Talk at the UN AI for Good Summit
  • (05) 2019 —— Karl Taylor Compton Prize, MIT's highest student award.
  • (01) 2019 —— Facebook Research PhD Fellowship, top ~2% of candidates across the world.
  • (08) 2018 —— The MIT Quest for Intelligence Grant Award ($100,000).
  • (06) 2018 —— Summer at Santa Fe Institute.
  • (11) 2017 —— TEDx Talk The Future of Markets in the Era of Artificial Intelligence.


CConference Paper JJournal Paper SPShort Paper DDemo TTutorial BCBook Chapter WWorkshop Proposal

[ W.1 ]Humanitarian Mapping: Harnessing Data and Human-Machine Intelligence for Actionable Policy Decisions
Gaikwad, S., Iyer, Shankar., Lin, Yu-Ru., Lunga, Dalton.
KDD 2020: ACM SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining.
link website


[ C.5 ]VizNet: Towards A Large-Scale Visualization Learning and Benchmarking Repository
Hu, Kevin., Gaikwad, S., Hulsebos, Madelon., Bakker, Michiel., Zgraggen, Emanuel., Hidalgo, Cesar., Kraska, Tim., Li, Guoliang., Satyanarayan, Arvind., Demiralp, Çağatay.
CHI 2019: The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Acceptance rate of 23.8%) picture_as_pdf paper code open source software code bookmarkgoogle scholar

[ SP.6 ]Gobo: A System for Exploring User Control of Invisible Algorithms in Social Media
Bhargava, Rahul*❊ ., Chung, Anna*., Gaikwad, S*❊., Hope, Alexis*., Jen, Dennis*., Rubinovitz, Jasmin*., Saldías-Fuentes, Belén*., Zuckerman, Ethan*❊.
Correspondence authors, *equal Contributions.
CSCW 2019: The ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing
picture_as_pdf paper code Gobo system bookmarkgoogle scholar

[ BC.1 ]Crowd Research: Open and Scalable University Laboratories
Vaish, Rajan., Gaikwad, S., Kovacs, Gezza., Veit, Andreas., Krishna, Ranjay., Ibarra, Imanol., Simoiu, Camelia., Wilber, Michael.,
Belongie, Serge., Goel, Sharad., Davis, James., and Bernstein, Michael.
Design Thinking Research: Looking Further: Design Thinking Beyond Solution-Fixation
Springer Nature 2019
book book chapter bookmarkgoogle scholar


[ C.4 ]A Voting-Based System for Ethical Decision Making
Noothigattu, Ritesh., Gaikwad, S., Awad, Edmond., D'Souza, Sohan., Rahwan, Iyad., Ravikumar, Pradeep., Procaccia, Ariel D.
AAAI 2018: Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (Acceptance rate of 24.6%)
picture_as_pdf aaai paper book journal version in submission bookmarkgoogle scholar Press: "Social Media Has Failed Its Self-Driving Test"(Bloomberg) open_in_new"Researchers Go After the Biggest Problem with Self-driving Cars"(Axios) open_in_new

[ T.2 ]Seafloor to Satellites: Crowdcomputing and Data Across Scales
Gaikwad, S., Vilgalys, Max., Stroming, Jeremy., Woodward, Ben, Browder, Rebecca.
All Hands on Deck 2018: National Ocean Exploration Forum, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and MIT
picture_as_pdf extended abstract link website

[ SP.5 ]Decoding the Evolution of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals using Bayesian Inference
Gaikwad, S.
Santa Fe Institute, Complex Systems Summer School Proceedings 2018
picture_as_pdf extended abstract


[ C.3 ]Crowd Research: Open and Scalable University Laboratories
Vaish, Rajan., Gaikwad, S., Kovacs, Gezza., Veit, Andreas., Krishna, Ranjay., Ibarra, Imanol., Simoiu, Camelia., Wilber, Michael.,
Belongie, Serge., Goel, Sharad., Davis, James., and Bernstein, Michael.
UIST 2017: ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, (Acceptance rate of 22.5%)
picture_as_pdf paper link website bookmarkgoogle scholar emoji_events ACM UIST Best Paper Honorable Mention, top 2.5% of the technical paper submissions Press: "A Stanford-led Platform for Crowdsourced Research Gives Experience to Global Participants"(Stanford News) open_in_new

[ C.2 ]Crowd Guilds: Worker-led Reputation and Feedback on Crowdsourcing Platforms
Gaikwad, S. with Crowd Research Collective Members.
CSCW 2017: The ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (Acceptance rate of 25%) picture_as_pdf paper bookmarkgoogle scholar

[ T.1 ]Crowdcomputing and Citizen Science for Large-Scale Experiments
Gaikwad, S., Dsouza, Sohan., Vuculescu, Oana., Mao, Andrew., and Rahwan, Iyad.
IC2S2 2017: International Conference on Computational Social Science

[ D.1 ]The Daemo Crowdsourcing Marketplace
Gaikwad, S. with Crowd Research Collective Members.
CSCW 2017: The ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work
picture_as_pdf paper code open source software code bookmarkgoogle scholar

[ SP.4 ]Prototype Tasks: Improving Crowdsourcing Results through Rapid, Iterative Task Design
Gaikwad, S. with Crowd Research Collective Members.
AAAI HCOMP 2017: AAAI Conference on Human Computation
picture_as_pdf paper code open source software code bookmarkgoogle scholar

[ SP.3 ]Designing a Constitution for a Self-Governing Crowdsourcing Marketplace
Gaikwad, S. with Crowd Research Collective Members.
Collective Intelligence 2017: ACM Collective Intelligence Conference
picture_as_pdf paper code open source software code bookmarkgoogle scholar


[ C.1 ]Boomerang: Rebounding the Consequences of Reputation Feedback on Crowdsourcing Platforms
Gaikwad, S. with Crowd Research Collective Members.
UIST 2016: The ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, (Acceptance rate of 20.6%)
In the readings of Human Computation classes at KAIST, Cornell University, University of Washington
picture_as_pdf paper code open source software code bookmarkgoogle scholar

[ SP.2 ]Crowd Research: Research At Scale
Vaish, Rajan., Gaikwad, S., Ginzberg, Adam., Ibarra, Imanol., Kovacs, Geza., Krishna, Ranjay., Morina, Durim., Mullings, Catherine.,
Simoiu, Camelia., Veit, Andreas., Wilber, Michael., Zhou, Sharon., Belongie, Serge., Goel, Sharad., Davis, James., Bernstein, Michael.
Stanford HCI Design Open House 2016

picture_as_pdf poster


[ SP.1 ]Daemo: A Self-Governed Crowdsourcing Marketplace
Gaikwad, S. with Crowd Research Collective Members.
UIST 2015: The ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology
picture_as_pdf paper picture_as_pdf poster code open source software code bookmarkgoogle scholar Press: "The future of work the peoples uber"(Pacific Standard) open_in_new


[ J.1 ]RNA Design Rules From a Massive Open Laboratory
Lee, Jeehyung., Kladwang, Wipapat., Lee, Minjae., Cantu, Daniel., Azizyan, Martin., Kim, Hanjoo., Limpaecher, Alex.,
Gaikwad, S., Yoon, Sungroh., Treuille, Adrien., Das, Rhiju., and EteRNA Participants
PNAS 2014: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
picture_as_pdf paper code software system bookmarkgoogle scholar "Videogamers are recruited to fight Tuberculosis and other ills "(Wall Street Journal) open_in_new "RNA game lets players help find a biological prize"(New York Times) open_in_new "How turning science into a game rouses more public interest"(WIRED) open_in_new "Game lets citizen scientists participate in creating large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs"(Scientific American) open_in_new "Why video games are key to modern science "(CNN) open_in_new "Online game helps predict how RNA folds " (New Scientist) open_in_new

Grants & Funds Raised

The lead author on following grants:

(11) MIT Dean's Grant, the Committee on Scholarly Interactions
(10) MIT Media Lab Travel Grant

(9) MIT Quest for Intelligence Grant; Gaikwad (lead author of the grant proposal) and Danielle Wood
(8) MIT Dean's Grant for the Committee on Scholarly Interactions
(7) MIT Media Lab Travel Grant
(6) MIT Dean's Grant, the Committee on Scholarly Interactions

(5) MIT GSC Travel Grant
(4) MIT Media Lab Travel Grant
(3) MIT Grad Student Life Grant, the Office of Grad Education
(2) MIT Media Lab StudCom Grant 2017

(1) Knights News Challenge Grant; Gaikwad. with Crowd Research Collective. [Selected in top 20 of 1,000+]

Invited Research Talks & Panels

Topics: Human-centered Machine Learning , Sustainable Development, Market Design


Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee
Human-centered Machine Learning for Socioeconomic Development

United Nations AI for Good Summit, Geneva
Designing Human-centered AI for Socioeconomic Development

PopTech and RISD, Providence
The Future of Food Exploratory

Dell EMC, Massachusetts
Challenges and Opportunities in Designing Human-centered Artificial Intelligence


Wadhwani Institute for AI, Mumbai
Artificial Intelligence and Society

Ethics and Governance of AI, Harvard Berkman Klein Center and Media Lab, Cambridge
Human-AI Collaboration for Sustainable Market Design

A European Dialog on the Platform Economy, European Trade Union Institute and Partners, Brussels
Daemo, A Self Goverining Crowdsourcing Market

MIT Science Communication IAP Workshop, Cambridge
Summarizing research for a TED-style talk


AAAI Human Computation and Crowdsourcing (HCOMP), Québec City, 2017
Industry Panel on Crowdsourcing. Declined to increase the panel’s gender diversity.

TEDx, BeaconStreet, Boston
The Future of Markets in the Era of Artificial Intelligence Link

The HPI-Stanford summit, Potsdam, Germany
Design Thinking and Crowd Research

Emerging Worlds Initiative, Cambridge
Computing and Sustainable Development

Colloquium on the Human Brain, Providence College
Human Machine Symbiosis

International Conference on Computational Social Science, Germany
Crowdcomputing and Citizen Science for Large-Scale Experiments


ACM UIST, Tokyo, Japan
Boomerang: an Incentive Compatible Reputation System


Xerox Research, Webster, NY
The Science of Human Computation

AI/ML Research Demos

Demo to A. R. Rahman, Grammy and Academy Award Winning Musician
AI for Music and Immersive Experience

Demo to Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever
Machine Learning and Sustainable Supply Chain

Demo to Shekhar Kapur, an international film director, actor, and producer
AI and Storytelling
Interesting papers with research acknowledgments

Woolley, Anita., Chabris, Christopher., Pentland, Alex., Hashmi, Nada., and Malone, Thomas., "Evidence For a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups"
Science 2010

Teaching, Student Supervision & Mentorship

Teaching and research mentoring have been an integral part of Neil’s quest: to help grow and inspire a generation of creative thinkers, scientists, and inventors who will collectively engage in resolving some of the biggest societal challenges of our time. He gets great satisfaction when his students succeed, and their accomplishments give him an immense sense of gratification that cannot be measured. You can listen to his interview at MIT's WMBR 88.1 FM Post-It Wall.

Courses taught, designed, or TAed
Spring 2020 — Course Project Mentor
MIT 15.376/MAS.664: AI for Impact: Towards Solving Societal-Scale Problems Fall 2017 — Teaching Assistant, Lab Instructor and Curriculum Developer
MIT MAS.S61: Computational/Quantitative Social Science Research Methods 2017-2018 — Instructor and Innovation Mentor
MIT Emerging Worlds: Crash Course Machine Learning for Development
MIT Emerging Worlds: Design Thinking and Innovation Workshop for Women Entrepreneurs
MIT Emerging Worlds: Design Thinking and Innovation Workshop for Executive Program in General Management Spring 2010 — Course Grader
Carnegie Mellon 15 − 859 (B): Machine Learning Theory Spring 2009 — Teaching Assistant
Carnegie Mellon 45 − 881: Entrepreneurial Thought & Action

Tutorials and Classroom Guest Lectures IC2S2 2017
Crowdcomputing and Citizen Science for Large-Scale Experiments
All Hands on Deck 2018
Seafloor to Satellites: Crowdcomputing and Data Across Scales 100 Robots for 100 Kids, Volunteer Robotics Teacher for at-risk Youth
Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute Spring 2019 Guest Lecture: Human-centered Machine Learning for Socioeconomic Development
MIT 15.226 Modern Business in India

Student Supervision & Mentorship

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and SM Program
(1) Yodahe Alemu (MIT EECS), Spring/IAP 2020
(2) Xuenan Ni (MIT SM, Department of Urban Studies and Planning), Fall 2018 and Spring 2019
(3) Ankur Podder (MIT SM, School of Architecture and Planning), Spring 2018
(4) Kealani Finegan (MAS, Wellesley College), Fall 2018
(5) Sourav Das (MIT EECS), Spring 2018
(6) Alice Jin (MIT EECS), Co-supervised. Fall 2017
Some of the students with positions they acquired after the projects
Directly supervised and mentored during the project: Daemo, a Self-governed Crowdsourcing Marketplace
(7) Aditi Mithal (Awarded Google Venkat Panchapakesan Memorial Scholarship, CS grad program at UCLA)
(8) Aditi Nath (CS grad program at Arizona State University)
(9) Ankita Sastry (Info Security grad program Carnegie Mellon)
(10) Karan Rajpal (CS grad program at Cornell University)
(11) Nalin Chhibber (Mathematics grad program at the University of Waterloo)
(12) Prastut Kumar (The Google Summer of Code Berkman Klein Center Harvard University)
(13) Prithvi Raj (Siemens Research and Development, Bangalore)
(14) Rahul Sheth (Undergraduate program at the University of California, Los Angeles)
(15) Radhika Bhanu K (CS grad program at Cornell University)
(16) Vibhor Sehgal (iSchool Grad program at the University of California, Berkeley)
(17) William Dai (Undergraduate program at the University of California, Berkeley)
List of students' research papers mentored as a teaching assistant and/or a colleague
Buolamwini, Joy., Timnit, Gebru., "Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification", ACM FAT* Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAT), 2018 open_in_new
Epstein, Ziv., Pennycook, Gordon., Rand, David., "Will the crowd game the algorithm? Using layperson judgments to combat misinformation on social media by downranking distrusted sources", CHI 2019 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems open_in_new Ananthabhotla, Ishwarya., Rieger, Alexandra., Greenberg, Dan., Picard Rosalind., "MIT Community Challenge: Designing a Platform to Promote Kindness and Prosocial Behavior", CHI 2017 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems open_in_new


(1) Program Committee Computational Sustainability Open Graduate Seminar open_in_new
(2) Program Committee & Co-Organizer The Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society, Workshop on AI for Social Impact open_in_new
(3) Co-Chair 5th MIT India Conference open_in_new
(4) Co-chair MIT SP Committee on Scholarly Interactions,a graduate student organization dedicated to stimulate and foster intellectual exchanges among the MIT community
(5) Leadership Council MIT Innovating for Billions Initiative
(6) Media Lab Design Rep The MIT GradRat Ring
(7) Co-organizer, EteRNA sessions for Leap@CMU Summer enrichment program for high school students

Initiatives Founded

At MIT, Neil has spearheaded new initiatives to established research mentorship trainings for MIT graduate, undergraduate, postdoc communities.

(1) Lead and co-founder, MIT Graduate Student Symposium Series
(2) Founder Research Mentorship Initiative for MIT graduate, undergraduate, postdocs community
(3) Co-founder Science, Technology, and Social Justice Speaker Series, MIT SP Committee on Scholarly Interactions


Neil is a practicing photographer and an MIT arts scholar. His artwork inspires his scientific endeavors. His exhibition Beyond the Boundaries captures the complexities of our planet, including 3,000 years old glacier landscapes, the Western Ghats (Sahyadri) of India, cultures, and pressing societal challenges such as climate change. Neil's photography work has been published in National Geographic. For more information, please visit `Explore the Planet Earth’ on Facebook and Instagram.

The Game of Cricket

Neil’s research draws inspiration from sports and team dynamics. He was a former cricket player— opening batter and leg spinner. In the US leagues he kept wickets (similar to being a catcher in Baseball) for Jermaine Lawson, former international cricketer and Harshal Patel, Royal Challengers Bangalore's fast-bowler in the IPL. He also enjoys mountain and ice climbing. The first picture to the right is at Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska.

Some of the archived man of the match scorecards:
sports_cricket [146 not out]
sports_cricket [71 not out]

Sports Quote: "and so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high" -- Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time.

Where The Mind is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore

The Impossible Dream (The Quest)

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong | To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary | To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest | To follow that star
No matter how hopeless | No matter how far

To fight for the right | Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell | For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true | To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm | When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star!

Joe Darion (From The Man of La Mancha)