The health inequities exposed by COVID-19 underscored the importance of collecting race-stratified data to inform local policymakers. For the public health researchers trying to provide that, the pandemic also revealed some major pitfalls, especially about relying on open-source data.
Mobile phone surveillance can augment public health interventions to manage COVID-19 and might help countries prepare for the next outbreak. But these programs collect sensitive health and behavior data. That raises significant risks to personal privacy and civil liberties.
The phrase “flatten the curve” familiarized Americans with epidemiological models used to estimate virus transmission, cases, and potential deaths from COVID-19. But new models are needed as the country enters a different stage of the crisis.
The need for immediate answers in the face of severe public health and economic distress may create a temptation to relax statistical standards. But urgency should not preclude expert analysis and honest assessments of uncertainty. Mistaken assumptions could lead to counterproductive actions.
Senior political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh helps lead RAND's work on Truth Decay, the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. In this interview, she discusses her latest research on how news presentation has changed over time and across platforms.
RAND-Lex is a computer program that can scan millions of lines of text and identify what people are talking about, how they fit into communities, and how they see the world. The program has shed light on how terrorists communicate, how the American public thinks about health, and more.
Governments are amassing a wealth of data on citizens, a trend that will continue as technology advances. But with no reliable way to ensure that the data is accurate, risks abound. In the criminal justice system, for example, poor quality data could affect individual freedoms and employability.
Data and computer models are becoming more and more important for making policy decisions on everything from prison sentences to tax bills. But citizens should be able to “check the math” on decisions that affect them.
The traditional baseball scout's keen eye is no longer deemed sufficient to rate talent, said Jeff Luhnow, general manager of the Houston Astros, at RAND's Politics Aside event. Analysts check curveball spin rates, computer-modeled swing mechanics, and even sleep habits.
Millions of people leave behind online footprints each day, giving law enforcement and intelligence experts the chance to construct a profile of who is more likely to commit violence in the name of a murderous ideology.
Despite the value of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, the amount of data they generate has become overwhelming. If the Navy does not change the way it processes information, it will reach an ISR “tipping point”—as soon as 2016.
The failure to find the missing aircraft demonstrates anew the serious gaps in data coordination and challenges public assumptions about the thoroughness and simplicity of searching the world’s data for answers.
Predictive policing is not an end-all solution, but rather a tool that must be used in concert with other policing resources as part of a broader anti-crime effort. Used properly, predictive policing can predict the risk of future events, but not the events themselves.