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A collage of the researchers: Clockwise from left: Angel Hsu, Jeffrey Mittlestadt and Shashank Srivastava.
Clockwise from left: Angel Hsu, Jeffrey Mittlestadt and Shashank Srivastava.

The UNC School of Data Science and Society awarded a seed grant to Angel Hsu, faculty member in the department of public policy in the College of Arts and Sciences. Hsu, along with co-principal investigator Shashank Srivastava (department of computer science, College of Arts and Sciences) and collaborator Jeffrey Mittelstadt (Kenan-Flagler Business School), proposed plans to improve a fine-tuned large language model (LLM), named ChatNetZero, to better understand companies’ and governments’ net-zero commitments.

“It’s the first customized large language model chatbot to help demystify complex climate change and decarbonization concepts,” said Hsu. “This tool will enable our different audiences to evaluate various policy actions on climate change. We’re innovating some algorithms, including an anti-greenwashing algorithm to try to be able to detect which companies and governments are actually trying to deceive or mislead when it comes to what the science and experts tell us these companies and governments should be doing to have a credible and high integrity, climate change commitments.”

ChatNetZero is an online platform based on a large language model trained on many complex sets of climate data, including the Net Zero Tracker, a collaboration by four organizations including Hsu’s Data-Driven Envirolab. The School’s support will enable Hsu’s team to fine-tune the LLM and prevent hallucinations and refine citations for any claims made by a company or government. The seed grant from SDSS will also support the development of business use cases for ChatNetZero with the goal of helping corporations make more efficient climate risk management decisions.

Hsu is working with two other faculty members: Shashank Srivistava from the department of computer science in the College of Arts and Sciences and Jeff Mittlestadt, a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and executive director of the Ackerman Center for Sustainable Enterprise.

“I was just so stoked that both of them were willing to work together on this project, because people are so busy and they are not working in their domains,” Hsu said of her collaborators. However, she noted why scientists and researchers from different disciplines might be drawn to a project dedicated to climate resiliency. “It’s very obvious that climate change is happening and a lot of people are experiencing it,” she added. “What we need to solve the climate crisis is to have many different people from so many different perspectives, all bringing to bear their expertise, to try to solve this incredibly challenging and very complex problem.”

In 2023, the School of Data Science and Society awarded six seed grants to researcher-led teams to support interdisciplinary projects. Learn more about these award teams and their projects at or by attending Data Science Day in September 2024. If you are interested in applying for an SDSS seed grant, learn more about the rolling admissions process at

About the Collaborators

Angel Hsu

Angel Hsu is an associate professor in the department of public policy and in the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program (E3P), both in the College of Arts & Sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University.

Data-Driven EnviroLab

The Data-Driven EnviroLab (DDL) is an interdisciplinary research lab headed by Angel Hsu and based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. DDL uses innovative data analytics, AI and machine learning processes, and large-scale and unconventional datasets to develop solutions to contemporary environmental problems and strengthen environmental policymaking across all levels.

Shashank Srivastava

Shashank Srivastava is an assistant professor in the department of computer science in the College of Arts & Sciences and also leads the Learning from Language Lab. Previously, he was at the Microsoft Research Lab in Redmond. He received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University.

Jeffrey Mittlestadt

Jeffrey Mittlestadt is a professor of the practice of strategy and entrepreneurship at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and executive director of the Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability. Mittlestadt has worked in higher education, government and the private sector, serving as Davidson College’s first director of sustainability as well as working for U.S. EPA’s Office of Inspector General and serving as vice president and senior analyst at Bank of America.

Courtesy of the School of Data Science and Society

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