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Data science in the city: How research, data can drive solutions to pervasive urban problems

August 30, 2019
Groups of people discussing data science issues

The symposium included research presentations and breakout conversations focusing on different approaches to solving urban issues (Image: Larry Canner)

When data science unites successfully with city policy, the results are a bounty of practical and even life-saving solutions to urban challenges. But to get there, the first step is reaching across a great gulf: the language barrier between academia and government, experts said during a Johns Hopkins symposium Tuesday.

“An awful lot of researchers don’t realize the extent to which their vocabulary has become largely unintelligible to normal human beings,” said Alan Mallach, senior fellow of the national nonprofit Center for Community Progress who previously served as housing chief for Trenton, New Jersey. He delivered a keynote address at the event.

“The onus is really on the research and academic community,” he said, “to reach out to the world of practice and demonstrate that they can be useful and productive and trusted.”

Hosted by the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science, the inaugural symposium, titled “Urban Spaces in Baltimore: Data Science in the City,” highlighted several productive research partnerships between Johns Hopkins and Baltimore City designed to address challenges such as HIV/AIDS, blighted properties, and the effects of climate change.

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