Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘UrbanCCD’ Category

Will the cities of tomorrow be built on a foundation of data and computation? Among the CI-related events at the 2013 University of Chicago Alumni Weekend was a panel discussing the growing role of data-driven urban policy, featuring Urban Center for Computation and Data director Charlie Catlett, Dean of the Harris School of Public Policy Colm O’Muircheartaigh and Lewis-Sebring Distinguished Service Professor Stephen W. Raudenbush.

In his remarks, Catlett talks about the current window of opportunity for studying cities, produced by the dramatic expansion from narrow, outdated data snapshots to constantly updated streams of open data available to researchers and the public.

“The new opportunity that we have in Chicago is that the city has taken the lead…in publishing data about the city: business permits, food safety inspections, 311 calls, crimes,” Catlett said. “So for the first time ever, if you’re a social scientist, economist, somebody who studies cities, you can actually get real time data from the city of Chicago and begin to study what’s happening in the city right now, not what was happening over the last 20 years or so. The ultimate goal is to be able to ask the question ‘What should we do now?’ as opposed to looking back and saying ‘What should we have done 10 years ago?'”

In response to a question about the insights to be found in large datasets, Catlett also used a colorful metaphor: “As you get to volumes of data, you start to see patterns that you wouldn’t see if you were closer; in a similar way that crop circles aren’t visible if you’re on the ground, but as you get higher up you start to see them.”

The full video of the panel is available below.

Read Full Post »

welcome-sign

As the Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good fellowship enters its third week, the orientation ice-breakers of the first couple days have given way to the grind of hard work. Following the technically-oriented “boot camp” of the first week, where fellows got a crash course in the software and tools at their disposal this summer, the second week featured a different sort of educational experience. A steady stream of experts, on topics ranging from Chicago crime and public transit to energy infrastructure and early childhood interventions, visited the DSSG space to expose fellows to the gritty details of the real world problems they will address.

The purpose of these visits is for the fellows to learn about “the dark matter of public policy data,” the important information that won’t necessarily show up in the numbers that they’ll work with during their projects. Some of the speakers chose to give the fellows a little dose of humility, such as Paul O’Connor from architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who challenged them with the questions of “Who are you, and what are you looking for?” amid a history lesson on Chicago.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Brett-Harris-WebFROM CITY HALL TO HYDE PARK

In its early days, the Urban Center for Computation and Data formed a valuable partnership with the data team installed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel within Chicago’s city government. Leading the city’s efforts to free up data internally and externally was Chief Data and Information Officer Brett Goldstein, an alumnus of the UChicago computer science program and the restaurant reservation startup company OpenTable. Goldstein’s team and UrbanCCD worked together on the SmartData platform proposal that was chosen for a $1 million grant in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge earlier this year, and Goldstein was the keynote speaker at the first workshop of the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Workshop in February.

So we are very excited about the news that Goldstein will soon be joining the University of Chicago as the inaugural Fellow in Urban Science at the Harris School of Public Policy. Goldstein will continue to work with UrbanCCD researchers on the SmartData platform and other projects, while also helping with the launch of a masters degree in computation and public policy and the Urban Technology Innovators’ Conference, a new initiative organized by Chicago Harris and the City of Chicago that seeks to create a peer-learning network for municipal technology innovators.

“Chicago Harris demonstrates a commitment to rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship, with strong partnerships with the Department of Computer Science and the Computation Institute, and a desire to advance the field of data science, especially so it can be leveraged it for public service,” Goldstein said. “I am excited about the opportunity to continue working to meld urban science and data analytics and work with this impressive community of faculty and staff.”

You can read more coverage of Goldstein’s move and career so far at Crain’s Chicago Business and Government Technology.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

ChicagoBlue SmallWatch or listen to the news in any city and you’ll be fed a stream of numbers: traffic times, weather forecasts, sports scores and financial reports. All this data gives a quick, surface snapshot of the city on any given day — what happened last night, what’s happening right now, what will happen over the next 24 hours. But a city’s health is harder to put a figure on, either because of the complexity of data, the scarcity of data or the hiding of data behind locked doors. At the University of Chicago last week, a panel of researchers in medicine and the social sciences discussed how the health numbers of Chicago and other cities can be both collected and applied, enabling research on unprecedented scales and empowering citizens to improve their own wellbeing.

The panel, “Methods, Data, Infrastructure for the Study of Health in Cities,” was part of the broader Health in Cities event, one of four Urban Forums held by the University of Chicago Urban Network encompassing the impressive breadth of city research on campus. Among the participants were several scientists who currently collaborating with CI researchers on how to use computation to better collect, analyze and share data. Kate Cagney, an associate professor of sociology and health studies, is working with the Urban Center for Computation and Data on their efforts to help plan and study the massive new Lakeside development taking shape on Chicago’s South Side. Her team will conduct interviews of residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Lakeside both before and after construction to assess how many aspects of their lives — including health — are affected by this enormous addition to the city’s landscape.

“We have an opportunity to study the impact of building a neighborhood from the ashes,” Cagney said. “New computational and data-intensive science techniques now exist to organize and analyze many disparate data sets, and these will allow for the study of Lakeside in unprecedented detail and produce insights due to real-time data.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

BigDataWeek-logoLost in the buzz surrounding “Big Data” is the nuance that the phrase can mean very different things according to its context. In the sciences, “Big Data” is a matter of increasing scale for researchers working with massive datasets in physics, astronomy and genomics. In business, “Big Data” offers new ways of marketing to customers or engineering better products and projects. But for a broad segment of the population, “Big Data” has yet to directly impact their daily lives beyond targeted ads on the internet and personalized recommendations for books, music and movies.

In the Computation Institute’s April 25th panel for the international Big Data Week event, three panelists highlighted the potential of this fashionable phrase to make the world a better place. Where data analytics and high-performance computing have long been essential tools in the physical sciences — and more recently in biology and medicine — the crossover of these methods into the social sciences is just starting. Now, as government data becomes more accessible, either publicly or for research purposes, new opportunities to improve the world around us arise, from building more sustainable and healthier cities to protecting society’s most vulnerable citizens from harm.

Charlie Catlett, director of the CI’s Urban Center for Computation and Data, started off the session by urging attendees to “think exponentially” about the world’s problems. Today’s smartphones hold as much computational power as the most advanced, room-sized supercomputers of 25 years ago, Catlett said, illustrating how quickly technology evolves. To maximize the potential of science along this exponential curve, researchers need to aim at problems that may seem insurmountable at present.

“When we’re thinking of a problem or a solution, we’re often overly constrained by what we understand and what we know and what we can do today,” Catlett said. “Where the real creativities and breakthroughs come is when we say, ‘I know I can only do this today, but I also know in five or ten years that the technology will catch up with that vision I have.'”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

rayid-ghaniIf you received a surprisingly personalized e-mail or Facebook message from the Obama 2012 campaign, it was likely the product of the campaign’s groundbreaking analytics tools. As chief scientist of that acclaimed team, Rayid Ghani helped bring the computational techniques of data-mining, machine learning and network analysis to the political world, helping the re-election campaign raise funds and get out the vote in powerful new ways. Now that Barack Obama is back in the White House, we are pleased to announce that Ghani is joining the University of Chicago and the Computation Institute. Here, he will shift his attention and expertise to even bigger goals: using data and computation to address complex social problems in education, healthcare, public safety, transportation and energy.

Though he only started on April 1st, Ghani already has a full plate, including a position as Chief Data Scientist at the Urban Center for Computation and Data and a role developing a new data-driven curriculum at the Harris School for Public Policy. But Ghani’s most immediate project is The Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellowship, which hopes to train and seed a new community of scientists interested in applying statistics, data and programming skills to society’s greatest challenges. We spoke to Ghani about his time with the campaign and plans for the future.

Q: So what brought you to the University of Chicago and the Computation Institute?

Ghani: The reason I got involved with the campaign was that I was looking to combine the things that I care about with the things that I’m good at. I was good at machine learning and data mining research and I cared about making a social impact in the world. The campaign was the beginning of that, but not a long-term plan. After the campaign, I was even more enthusiastic  – if we could do all that we did in a year and a half, there’s certainly a lot more we can do if there is a more focused effort that can last.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

TEDxCERN_headerWHEN TED MEETS CERN

We’re happy to announce that Computation Institute director Ian Foster will be speaking at the first-ever TEDxCERN conference, to be held May 3rd at the particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The theme of the conference is “Multiplying Dimensions,” and Foster will speak in the second session on the topic of “Big Process for Big Data.” Other speakers include geneticist George Church, chemist Lee Cronin and philosopher John Searle. A webcast of the conference (hosted by Nobel Laureate George Smoot) will run on the TEDxCERN website, but the CI will also host a viewing party at the University of Chicago. Stay tuned for details, and enjoy the TEDxCERN animation on the origin of the universe — one of five animations (including one on big data) that will premiere at the event.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »