Several faculty in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs have received Provost’s Tier 1 Interdisciplinary Seed Grants of approximately $50,000. The internal grants are designed to stimulate and support interdisciplinary research at Northeastern and to increase the competitiveness of external proposals.
Len Albright, assistant professor of sociology and public policy, and Qi Wang, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering, plan to analyze the dynamic connectivity among urban neighborhoods by using real-time estimations of travel time collected from Google Maps API.
“Urban communities are connected in significantly more ways than in the past; however urban isolation still remains central to the debate surrounding social inequality,” Albright said. “In this exploratory project, we aim to examine urban mobility among different types of urban neighborhoods in the top U.S. cities based on the ‘big data’ of urban informatics.”
Their study, “Neighborhood Connectivity and Social Inequality: Urban Travel Imbalances Based on Google Traffic Data,” is an attempt to shed light on the research question: How is social inequality reflected in and exacerbated by traffic reliability.
The research, they said, aims to explore the complex relation between social inequality and urban infrastructure by developing a quantitative understanding and theoretical analysis of the dynamic connectivity among different urban communities. The expected contributions of the research include: advancing our understanding on social isolation related to the disproportional distribution of connectivity and its quality; quantifying the social-spatial connectivity among different neighborhoods; and exploring the complexity of the spatial isolation among U.S. cities.
Emily Mann, teaching professor of human services and senior research associate at the Dukakis Center, has partnered with principal investigators Alisa K. Lincoln, director of the Institute of Urban Health Research and Practice, and Amy Farrell, associate director of the Institute on Race and Justice, to develop a Program Evaluation Lab housed within the Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice.
Faculty and students from across colleges will collaborate to develop and lay the building blocks for an interdisciplinary, cross-college, lab which will support faculty and students from multiple programs in the development and implementation of program evaluation activities focused on issues of health, justice, community safety, and social welfare.
“Developing the proposed lab infrastructure will allow for an efficient response to requests for evaluation support from organizations and agencies,” said Lincoln, Farrell and Mann. “In an age where metrics of success are critical to program growth and expansion, evaluation is central to the health of a community. The Program Evaluation Lab will provide an opportunity for Northeastern University to play a critical leadership role in providing the highest quality evaluation support to strengthen and support our community.”
The NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, in collaboration with the NuLawLab and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern’s School of Law, will create a crowd-sourced digital archive to document incidents of hate speech and acts of violence inspired by racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other bias motivated incidents.
Principle investigators, Richard Daynard, SPPUA affiliate professor and University Distinguished Professor of Law, Ryan Cordell, assistant professor of English, and Élika Ortega Guzman, assistant professor of cultures, societies and global studies, plan to develop a web-based storytelling platform that will enable an aggregation of materials that may include newspaper reports, court reports, first person interviews and accounts, witness reports, and community organization responses and reports as well as resources for witnesses and victims of hate.
“In the few months since the election, social media has been used to document and share the frightening increase of incidents of violence and speech motivated by hate,” they said. “In order to document these acts—and bear witness to them as a means of not normalizing such actions—the Witnessing Hate archive will bring together and further elaborate accounts that might otherwise disperse into the ocean of social media attention.”
This collection will provide powerful evidence in aggregate for future historians, victims whose stories might be discredited in isolation, or for victims too afraid to report on their own.
Alicia Sasser Modestino, associate professor and associate director of the Dukakis Center, is working with professors Gary Young and Muhammad Noor Alam to employ big data analytic techniques to inform health treatment and coverage decisions to improve value in health care in Massachusetts, with a special emphasis on opioid addiction.
Their research agenda entails partnerships with organizations that have as part of their mission identifying the most cost-effective approaches for preventing and managing illness. Using the Massachusetts All-Payer Claims Database, they will employ a range of statistical tools to evaluate patterns of prescribing certain medications and their use, including the use of opioids and opioid deterrent agents. Their research will help inform ongoing policy discussions regarding how best to address opioid addiction in the state including recommendations from Governor Charlie Bakers’ Opioid Addiction Working Group.
“Our team is bringing together diverse disciplines including health economics, business management, industrial engineering, and public policy to address an import health crisis facing both Massachusetts and the nation,” they said.
In an interdisciplinary effort, SPPUA professors Jennie Stephens, Daniel O’Brien and Brian Helmuth have teamed up with faculty in other Northeastern departments to study public health and community resilience impacts of heat waves at micro-spatial levels.
They are working with Aatmesh Shrivastava in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Auroop Ganguly in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Mark Patterson in Departments of Marine and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Affiliate professor David Lazer, who is the co-director of NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, is working with Catalina Herrera Almanza, assistant professor of economics and international affairs, on a project that explores women’s health, well-being and social networks in developing countries.
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