Science & Civics: Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute released a report on Science & Civics: A Guide for Collaborative Action.

Today, it is necessary and urgent to defend the vital role of science in a healthy civic life. This report begins with the premise that there is a gap in both civic literacy and scientific literacy in the United States. The Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity Program (CAI) believes that these two trends are connected – and that addressing them together is vital to cultivating a citizenry capable of informed self-government. Through the Science & Civics Initiative, CAI aims to help scientists become more powerful citizens and enable citizens to make sense of the world and its complex problems more like scientists. The goal of this report is to outline a path of collaborative action for both civic groups and scientists.

I had the pleasure to contribute ideas to this report. Other contributors to the report include:

Shannon Dosemagen, Executive Director of Public Lab New Orleans

Dr. John Falk, Sea Grant Professor of Free Choice Learning at Oregon State University

Leetha Filderman, President and COO of PopTech

Ira Flatow, Host and Executive Producer of Science Friday

Cary Funk, Associate Director of Research on Science and Society at Pew Research Center

Thomas Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Dr. Leandris Liburd, Associate Director for Minority Health and Health Equity at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Dietram Scheufele, John E. Ross Chair in Science Communication in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Brooke Smith, Executive Director of Compass

Big Data and Planning: PAS Report Published by American Planning Association

The American Planning Association has released a report that I co-authored with Kendra L. Smith.

Big Data and Planning

Data sets are growing so large and complex that using them is like drinking from a fire hose. Feeling overwhelmed? Help is on the way.

Big data isn’t the problem; it’s the solution — and this PAS Report shows how to use it. Arizona State University researchers Kevin C. Desouza and Kendra L. Smith have teamed up on a practical guide to channeling the power of big data. Together they look at how planners around the world are turning big data into real answers for smart cities.

Learn how Dublin is gearing up geospatial data to steer traffic. See how Singapore is collecting citizens’ selfies to track smog. Discover how Detroit is crowdsourcing creative ideas for its 50-year plan. And find out how the U.S. government is planning to use Yelp to improve its services.

What’s the big idea for your community? Read Big Data and Planning for a look at trends and tools you can tap into today.

Page Count: 104
Date Published: Dec. 5, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61190-188-7

Realizing the Promise of Cognitive Computing Systems

I am launching a new project in the area of Cognitive Computing Systems. Below is a brief description of the effort. You can read a recent post that I did for Brookings here. If you are interested in collaborating on this project, please contact me.

Project Description

Every major technology player is investing serious financial and human capital into the development of Cognitive Computing Systems (CCSs). CCSs leverage artificial intelligence and machine intelligence techniques to build systems that can 1) learn from interactions, 2) analyze large datasets in an effective and efficient manner, and 3) increase the of precision of outcomes overtime through continuous process of analyzing and learning from data. Put more simply, CCSs are inspired by the potential to mimic how the human brain acquires, analyzes, and employs data to make decisions. Research and development efforts and emerging prototypes point to the fact that CCSs have significant potential to cause major disruptions in all facets of the public sector. In addition, if one considers CCSs along with other emerging technologies (e.g. autonomous vehicles or fully connected machine-to-machine networks), the magnitude of disruption is potentially greater. Public agencies need to take a more proactive approach towards 1) understanding the nature of CCSs, 2) appreciating their potential to enable agencies to increase performance and optimize resource allocations, and 3) charting pathways towards adopting, experimenting with, and implementing these systems. This project will focus on providing public managers with actionable insights on the above-mentioned three issues.

Today, CCSs are being designed to support human decision-makers by providing them evidence-based solutions through analyzing large quantities of data within a domain. In an ideal world, according to technology enthusiasts, these systems should be able to make decisions on their own, thereby removing some of the traditional concerns with human decision-makers (e.g. prejudice, errors, etc.). CCSs will also be networked with other such systems so as to conduct transactions without human intervention. While there is no doubting that the sophistication of these systems will increase over time and their costs will decrease making them affordable, serious public policy and management considerations must be addressed to fully leverage their potential. Our project will focus on studying how public agencies can take a proactive approach to preparing themselves for CCSs. We will not only study the technical and organizational issues associated with CCSs, but take a close look at the social and public policy issues.

Our research methodology will take a multi-prong approach. First, we will document lessons learned from several of our ongoing projects that include elements of CSSs (e.g. machine learning algorithms, data mining, sensor-networks, etc.). Second, we will collect case studies on various CSSs projects in the public sector. We will seek to collect cases beyond the US, and will also look at CSSs projects at various scales. Through the analysis of these cases we will seek to uncover issues and challenges associated with implanting CCSs. In addition, these cases will enable us to tease apart various common themes that various stakeholders within the CCSs face as they conceive of, launch, and manage these projects. Third, we will leverage our vast network of public sector CIOs, technology enthusiasts, futurists, and innovators to conduct in-depth interviews on CCSs in the public sphere. Our interviews will focus on technical, organizational, policy, and social dimensions of CCSs and their role in 1) transforming public agencies, 2) innovating policy design, implantation, and evaluation, and 3) the nature of data, analytics, and systems as a public good.

Funding

The IBM Center for the Business of Government has generously provided support for the first report from this project.

IT Governance in the Public Sector – Journal of Management Information Systems

jmis_30_years_coverAn article I co-authored with Gregory S. Dawson (Arizona State University), James S. Denford (Royal Military College of Canada), Clay K. Williams (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), and David Preston (Texas Christian University) has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Management Information Systems.

An Examination of Effective IT Governance in the Public Sector Using the Legal View of Agency Theory

Abstract
In the private sector, research on IT governance has frequently applied the classical view of agency theory and focused on the controlling role played by the board of directors in constraining potentially opportunistic manager/agent. However, in the public sector, the board of directors does not exist and there may be less need to focus on the controlling aspect of governance and more need to focus on the politically challenging distribution of state resources. In this U.S. state-based study, we adopt, apply and extend the legal view of agency theory past its sole focus on the board of directors as the solitary mediating hierarch in order to examine the strategic mediating hierarch role played by the state legislature and then conceptualize and test for the existence of a tactical mediating hierarch played by the IT steering committee and the production role of an independent office of the chief information officer (OCIO) in using a fee-for-service funding model. We apply these concepts to extend theory to examine the combination of roles that lead to superior outcomes for the state (the principal) versus those necessary for the IT department (the agent). Our results show that by shifting from the control-oriented view of governance in the private sector to a more mediating view in the public sector, important practices may be portable between the public and private sector, despite their widely differing structures.

Salzburg Global Forum on the Future of Public Service

sgf Heading to Salzburg, Austria to spend a few days at the Schloss Leopoldskron to discuss the Future of Public Service hosted by the Salzburg Global Forum. For more details, please see here.

Familiar public services and institutions are in the early stage of radical renewal that may render them unrecognizable by 2050. New technologies and societal transformation are reconfiguring the interdependent world at unprecedented speed. New concepts and demands for more flexible and dynamic public service are emerging at all levels, from 'megapolitan' cities to supranational organizations.

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Predictive Analytics and Higher Education

SO16ERcoverAn article I co-authored with Kendra Smith appears in the September/October Issue of EDUCASE Review. The article was the cover feature for the issue. You can access the article here.

Predictive Analytics: Nudging, Shoving, and Smacking Behaviors in Higher Education

With predictive analytics, colleges and universities are able to “nudge” individuals toward making better decisions and exercising rational behavior to enhance their probabilities of success.

Challenges in Inter-Disciplinary Research, University of Ljubljana

logo_engI will be visiting the Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of Ljubljana from August 28-31. I will deliver one research seminar and connect with colleagues on several research projects. I have held a visiting professor appointment at the University of Ljubljana since 2009.

Challenges in Inter-Disciplinary Research: Strategies from Crafting Research Ideas to Publishing
In this presentation, I will share my experiences in executing inter-disciplinary research projects. Studying complex phenomenon requires us to undertake research that (1) draws on multiple disciplines, (2) engages a diverse group of stakeholders, (3) appreciates a plurality of research approaches, and (4) communicates to a diverse set of audiences. Executing inter-disciplinary research is no easy feat to accomplish. Researchers face daunting challenges from the onset, beginning with the inception of ideas, then continuing to the crafting of problem statements, executing the research process, and communicating the results via publications in academic and practitioner outlets. However, these challenges should not be viewed as an excuse to abandon inter-disciplinary research in favor of narrowly focused research exercises. I will present a method (process) for executing inter-disciplinary research that has served me well. Illustrative examples of research projects will be used to exemplify this process and outline strategies for researchers to consider when conducting inter-disciplinary research projects.

Facebook and the 2016 US Elections

Over the last few months, I have been working with my research team on several papers that examine how the 2016 US Elections are playing out on Facebook. We have several research notes on our project published on Brookings Institution TechTank Blog.

We also have a paper accepted at the 2016 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining.

Social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook and Twitter, are important spaces for political engagement. SNS have become common elements in political participation, campaigns, and elections. However, little is known about the dynamics between candidate posts and commentator sentiment in response to those posts on SNS. This study enriches computational political science by studying the 2016 U.S. elections and how candidates and commentators engage on Facebook. This paper also examines how online activity might be connected to offline activity and vice versa. We extracted 9,700 Facebook posts by five presidential candidates (Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich) from their official Facebook pages and 12,050,595 comments on those posts. We employed topic modeling, sentiment analysis, and trends detection using wavelet transforms to discover topics, trends, and reactions. Our findings suggest that Republican candidates are more likely to share information on controversial events that have taken place during the election cycle, while Democratic candidates focus on social policy issues. As expected, commentators on Republican candidate pages express negative sentiments toward current public policies as they seldom support decisions made by the Obama administration, while commentators on democratic candidate pages are more likely to express support for continuation or advancement of existing policies. However, the significance (strong/weak) and nature (positive/negative) of sentiments varied between candidates within political parties based on perceived credibility of the candidate’s degree of credibility on a given issue. Additionally, we explored correlation between online trends of comments/sentiment and offline events. When analyzing the trend patterns, we found that changes in online trends are driven by three factors: 1) popular post, 2) offline debates, and 3) candidates dropping out of the race.

Research Team: Saud Alashri, Srinivasa Srivatsav Kandala, Vikash Bajaj, Roopek Ravi, Anish Pradhan, and Kendra L. Smith

 

Governing Innovation in U.S. State Gov. – Journal of Strategic Info. Systems

JSISMy co-authored article with Gregory S.Dawson (Arizona State University) and James S. Denford (Royal Military College of Canada) has been accepted for publication in Journal of Strategic Information Systems

Governing Innovation in U.S. State Government: An Ecosystem Perspective

In the public sector, the strategic quest for IT-based innovation often starts by hiring a successful private sector CIO and hoping his or her prior experience will transfer. However this often ignores the existence and influence of other entities and IT governance structures that form the innovation ecosystem. Applying the legal view of agency theory to the U.S. state innovation ecosystem and using a crisp-set qualitative comparative analysis (csQCA) approach, we investigate factors that are associated with public sector IT-based innovation. We find that CIO characteristics, structural oversight mechanisms, CIO relationships with authorities, and the state environment combine to form configurations that lead to both high and low performance.

Autonomous Vehicles in Slate and Wired Interview

slateI published a new article in Slate for their Futurography series on the challenges cities might face when self-driving cars share the roads with old school vehicles.

Can Self-Driving Cars Share the Road With Old-School Vehicles?

WiredI was also interviewed for a story in Wired on the US Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge.

Columbus Just Won $50 Million to Become the City of the Future