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The Biden School's Strength in Data Science

The growth of data science as a field and as a viable career path in the today's world is unmistakable. Data science is making major inroads in the world of public affairs as government at all levels is making more extensive use of data and nonprofit organizations are using data for marketing, fundraising, service delivery, and operations. This exciting and growing area is an important part of smart cities, e-government, and city science.  

The involvement of trained scientists in policy education and research opens new venues for rigorous, evidence-based policy that is aligned with widespread appetite and support for interdisciplinary activities at the University of Delaware. The newly created Data Science Institute— with an infrastructure that enables multi-department affiliations— fosters the development of innovative collaborations.

The Biden School has always been proud of its role in the forefront of innovation in public service, and data science is one of our newest areas of expertise. We have a number of efforts currently underway to ensure our future leadership in data science and public affairs research.

Over the past three years, we added two professional data scientists to our faculty, became a contributor to the Data Science Institute and data science master's degree program, and built expertise by our existing faculty in data science and civic analytics.

Our Data Scientists

At the Biden School, new faculty with training in the data science such as Greg Dobler and Fredrica Bianco bring a rigorous approach to data-driven information retrieval and analysis for decision making in the public sector, providing policy students with data science tools that enable the acquisition, interpretation, and communication of evidence and evidence-based policies. Training in these techniques within the context of policymaking and evaluation merges the technical rigor of the physical and information sciences with practical and consequential policy analysis. 

Dobler is leading collaborations that enable urban policy development based on automated image analysis and retrieval, developing methods that are scalable to large, complex urban environments and complement classical survey-based research. Bianco is bringing data science expertise to bear on projects that range from public health to criminal and prosecutorial justice. Analyzing prosecutorial records, she provides a data-driven insight into delays, disparities, and the impact of legislative changes.

Their work informs sustainability and technological developments of cities, energy and environmental policy, planning and the lived experience of urban environments, public health, and criminal justice.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The University of Delaware has embarked on an effort to create real progress in data science. These efforts have included the Data Science Institute and the new master's degree in data science. The Data Science Institute, (https://dsi.udel.edu/) has created a series of efforts aimed at promoting data science in the University and the region. Biden school faculty are highly involved in these efforts.

The master's degree in data science (https://www.msds.udel.edu/) is an interdisciplinary degree, resting on mathematics, computer science and applied statistics. Several Biden School faculty members are affiliated with the program (Nina David, Greg Dobler, Jonathan Justice, John McNutt, Ed Ratledge, Chandra Reedy, Breck Robinson, Dan Smith, and Tibor Toth) and a number of Biden School courses are included in the curriculum.

Ongoing Work in the Biden School

The Biden School's faculty, staff, and students continue to contribute to our impact in the data science field.  

For several years, Institute for Public Administration staff members William DeCoursey and Sarah Pragg have worked with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to enhance the utility of their real-time traveler information app, with a focus on taking a human-centered design approach to sharing data with highway users. As part of this work, graduate research assistant Mesut Karakoc designed and conducted a social media sentiment analysis to objectively assess the role of DelDOT's app in regional conversations about traffic.  

The Medicaid Research program in the Center for Community Research & Service (Steve Metreaux, Erin Knight, Katie Gifford and Mary Joan McDuffie) operates through a formal partnership with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance (DMMA). Working collaboratively with DMMA, other state agencies and nonprofit and academic researchers, CCRS is able to analyze claims and encounter data to examine the effectiveness of interventions, provide health services utilization data, and provide profiles of different Medicaid populations through different analytic techniques. Current projects include an evaluation of a statewide contraceptive access initiative; an analysis of the prevalence of substance use disorders and treatment, including opioid use; and investigation of the use of recently introduced medical coding for the social determinants of health, including homelessness. As part of a recent ACCEL Orbit Award, CCRS is finalizing a guide to Delaware Medicaid data for potential research partners. As a member of Delaware INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) Centralized Research Service Network (CRSN), an organization funded by NIH and the state of Delaware, INBRE has recently begun accepting applications from researchers interested in partnering with CCRS to conduct analysis of the Medicaid data.

The Center for Historic Architecture (Chandra Reedy) is heavily involved in work on the application of data science to material culture and restoration. Dr. Reedy is part of a national group examining these issues.

The Center for Demographic Analysis and Survey research (CADSR) is a major player in the data science world (Ed Ratledge, Tibor Toth & Eric Best). More information on their projects is available at http://www.cadsr.udel.edu/

Data science is an important part of our faculty research efforts. Nina David, Jonathan Justice, and John McNutt are part of a group exploring the role of civic technology and open civic data in community work. They have contributed a number of articles and book chapters on data and data science. John McNutt and Janice Barlow recently conducted a national study of data science in the KIDS Count network. Kim Isett has worked on issues related to networks in the public sector for more than two decades. Her work includes both structural analysis and theoretical contributions and spans substantive domains such as mental health service delivery and entrepreneurial startups. Recent work focuses on defining the boundaries of the field of inquiry. Her publications are among the highest cited in public management within this subfield. Tibor Toth is conducting research on the use of sensors in transportation planning.  A recent NASPAA panel on Data for Good was chaired by Maria Aristeguieta.

A number of Biden School student dissertations are dealing with these issues. Eli Turkel is studying Code for America, a national leader in community data and Mesut Karakoc is studying Cybersecurity planning using advanced data and text analytics. Eli Turkel, Mesut Karakoc and Salomi Sharma are studying data science programs in public affairs (with John McNutt and Heather Carpenter from Notre Dame of Maryland).

The Biden School is emerging as a leader in the data science space. Our research, programs, and people are making a difference, and with our roots in practice and the Delaware Model, we will make these new tools even more valuable.

 

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As data science has an increasing role in public affairs research and public sector decision making, the Biden School is strengthening and expanding our data science activities, programming, and expertise.

As data science has an increasing role in public affairs research and public sector decision making, the Biden School is strengthening and expanding our data science activities, programming, and expertise.

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  • Biden School of Public Policy & Administration
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  • University of Delaware
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