For more information about the Research Seed Grants click here.
The Critical Role of Public Library Branches in Boston
Laura Delgado, a PhD student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, is examining how library branches target services to diverse neighborhoods and adapt those services as local populations change. Delgado will use branch-level data obtained from the Boston Public Library as well as the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for her project, trying to understand how community-based organizations, specifically the public library, shape community and access to opportunity.
Community contexts and school outcomes for historically underserved students: Developing a geospatial data set to explore neighborhood effects
Robbie Dembo and Jenny Lafleur, PhD students in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, will be exploring the role of geographic inequality and neighborhood effects in the educational outcomes of marginalized students – particularly those with special needs.They will develop a geospatial data set for the Boston metropolitan area that allows for the linkage of school-level outcomes with neighborhood-level data, documenting socioeconomic contexts as well as the locations of health-related resources that support children’s well-being.
Understanding How City-Level Processes Shape Economic and Social Mobility Outcomes
Alexis Mann, PhD candidate at Brandeis in the joint Social Policy and Sociology program, is working with the City of Boston to understand how researchers and policymakers can best understand social mobility at a local level. She will be examining the literature and methods used to study this subject in order to advance a clearer understanding of the processes around social mobility, and to propose the structure of an Economic Mobility Dataset that could serve such efforts moving forward. She will also generate questionnaire items pertaining to social mobility for the soon-to-be-implemented BEACON survey. In sum, Ms. Mann’s project will lay the groundwork for valuable resources for the study of social mobility in Boston.
Managing Methadone Mile: Good Neighbor Policy in Boston’s Epicenter for Homeless and Addiction Services
Adam Pittman, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at UMass Boston, is working in partnership with the Worcester Square Neighborhood Association and South End Working Group on Homelessness and Addiction to implement a Good Neighbor policy that aims to build alliances among residents and service providers to curb crime and disorder stemming from “Methadone Mile.” Through interviews and observation, Pittman will consider how crime, disorder, and stakeholder conflict weakens a neighborhood’s crime-controlling efforts, particularly in the case of Worcester Square in the South End neighborhood of Boston.
Mapping under Uncertainty: Spatial Politics, Urban Development, and the Future of Coastal Flood Risk
Mike Wilson, PhD candidate in Urban Planning from MIT, seeks to create tools that can guide local development in flood risk areas, and evaluate mapping as a potential decision support system to help planners manage the systemic risks of building code, land use zoning, and infrastructure investment. Wilson will analyze a novel survey dataset from the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Article 37 Climate Change Preparedness Resiliency Checklist to understand developer characteristics, site-specific conditions, and the state of scientific knowledge for recent large-scale new construction projects.
Housing Affordability and NIMBYism in Boston
Michael Hankinson, a PhD candidate at Harvard studying Government and Social Policy, is examining the role of political restrictions in contributing to the housing affordability crisis facing Boston. Using a novel GIS interface, Hankinson seeks to explain NIMBYism (i.e., “Not In My BackYard”) by capturing how citizen preferences for the placement of new housing reflect racial, economic, and spatial biases. The project’s goal is not only to spark conversation around the bias in the political voice reaching elected officials regarding urban development, but also to translate the research interface into an interactive tool that city governments can use to gauge public opinion on housing and development plans.
A Game for Health and Climate Adaptation Planning
Ella Kim, a PhD candidate in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, is developing two new tools—a face-to-face role-play simulation and an online game—that focus on the health impacts of climate change, enhance awareness of climate risks, and increase support for climate adaptation policies. The project looks at ways in which we can enhance understanding and decision-making capacity among various sub-populations, enabling cities to increase local engagement and inform climate adaptation planning.
Detection and Optimization of Traffic Problems from Waze Data
Jing Zhang, a PhD candidate in BU’s Department of Systems Engineering, is using Waze data for the city of Boston to develop ways to relieve traffic congestion as it is occurring. The project will uncover “non-typical” events in order to identify “actionable” traffic jams that might be solved by altering traffic light timing, dispatching emergency services, or by instituting a new policy. Zhang seeks to develop an algorithm that can predict congestion before it becomes severe, enabling cities to maximize the efficiency and safety of their roadways in real time.
Mapping the Massachusetts Public Assistance System
Marija Bingulac and Caitlin Carey, PhD candidates in Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston, are working with the On Solid Ground Coalition through the Center for Social Policy to develop a dataset of the 31 largest public assistance programs that are available to low-income families in Massachusetts, including their criteria for eligibility for services, and the extent to which they are accessed and by whom. These data will enable a detailed illustration of the social safety net in Massachusetts, as well as analyses of which families are most likely to require access to public supports, and proposals for evidence-based policy recommendations for the administration of public assistance.
Examining the Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycle in Greater Boston
Stephen Decina, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology at Boston University, is collecting precipitation samples and analyzing them for levels of nitrogen and phosphorus throughout the Boston region to gain an understanding of the magnitude and drivers of variation in atmospheric deposition in urban areas. Along with his advisors, Pamela Templer and Lucy Hutyra, he has also pioneered two of the first urban National Atmospheric Deposition Program National Trends Network sites in the country. The data from these initiatives will provide a deeper understanding of the biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen and phosphorus in cities, with implications for both urban ecosystems and human health. Decina will share these data with both scientists and policymakers in November at the National Atmospheric Deposition Program annual meeting, and plans to make the final data publicly available to other scientists, policymakers, and community members through BARI’s Boston Data Portal.
A Trauma Response Protocol for Neighborhood Violence
Liana Tuller, a PhD candidate in Northeastern University’s Department of Sociology, is partnering with the Boston TenPoint Coalition to conduct foundational research around collective trauma in response to neighborhood violence. The project will develop a more precise description of how neighborhoods collectively respond to ongoing violence, including a method for measuring and quantifying collective trauma. The findings will inform the development of methods that community groups might use to promote collective healing during and after periods of neighborhood violence. Tuller will draw on data from multiple existing datasets as well as conduct surveys and interviews with residents from neighborhoods affected by violence.
Late Registration in School Choice Inequality
Kelley Fong, a PhD student in Harvard’s Sociology and Social Policy program, and Sarah Faude, PhD candidate in Northeastern University’s Department of Sociology, are working with the Boston Public Schools to analyze survey and interview data on late registrants in the school choice and assignment lottery. Families who register later are, by design, less able to secure seats in desirable schools. Utilizing existing data and surveys gathered from the summers of 2014 and 2015 in collaboration with BPS Welcome Centers, they plan to investigate the role of timing in school choice and registration, culminating in a policy brief and academic paper(s).
Evaluating Neighborhoods and Neighborhood Programs
Sandeep Jani, a PhD student in the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, is working with Main Streets Boston to determine the kinds of indicators that would they would find most valuable in evaluating the status of neighborhoods and the effectiveness of their programs. These conversations are anticipated to lead to the identification of data sources that might provide indicators that fit these areas of interest.
Boston’s Urban Land Cover and the Urban Heat Island
Andrew Trlica, a PhD student in Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment, is examining the relationship between increasing temperatures and the urban landscape in the Boston metropolitan area with unprecedented spatial precision. Trlica will use both novel and publicly available geospatial data on Boston’s land cover, albedo (i.e., reflected sunlight), population distribution, and summer daytime surface temperature to understand the land cover characteristics that determine albedo and its contribution to the Urban Heat Island effect. The project will produce a set of interactive public maps that will communicate the different components of the urban surface environment, and will hopefully initiate a data-driven discussion on local land-use and construction policies in relation to the consequences of climate change for Boston.
The Distribution of Arts and Cultural Venues and Events
Caitlin Bettisworth, a masters student in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, who is used an events calendar maintained by ArtsBoston, a nonprofit group representing more than 170 arts and cultural groups, to examine the distribution of arts and cultural venues and events in the greater Boston area as part of her thesis on the lifecycle of gentrification.
Demographic Transformations in Boston Neighborhoods, 1880-1930
Cristina Groeger a doctoral student in history at Harvard, who used individual census records to examine shifts in demographics and industry and their resultant impact on the uptake of public education across Boston neighborhoods between 1880 and 1930. Data from that project, which shows the dramatic demographic transformations in Boston’s neighborhoods that occurred between 1880 and 1930 are now available on the Boston Research Map and in the Boston Data Library.
Infrastructure and Interactions
Melissa Sands, a doctoral student in government at Harvard, who used multiple databases, including a several provided by the City of Boston, to identify components of the physical infrastructure that influence the potential for contact between residents and their neighbors, and to quantify this likelihood of interaction across the city.