February 25, 2020
By Emily F. Keller
CUAC Releases Program Report Highlighting Collaborative Research Across Cascadia

The Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative (CUAC) has released a comprehensive program report detailing collaborative research and training activities between the University of Washington (UW) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) over the last three years. CUAC supports interdisciplinary studies of large urban data sets that use the latest data science techniques to address policy-relevant issues affecting the Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland metropolitan areas.

The report describes activities since CUAC was established in February 2017 with a $1 million grant from Microsoft, through January 2020. The report covers five research areas and the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) student internship programs. CUAC is directed by Bill Howe, Associate Professor in the UW Information School, and Jonathan Fink, Visiting Professor of Urban Analytics at UBC.

The report is available here.

== Research Highlights ==

Housing Affordability: Research led by Tim Thomas and Mike Babb at UW, and Elvin Wyly, Penny Gurstein and Nathan Lauster at UBC, incorporates sociological theory and data science techniques to generate comparative demographic studies of neighborhood change. The Neighborhood Change Project has directly impacted housing policy in Washington State. In 2019, Thomas testified in front of the State Senate Housing Stability & Affordability Committee about his work to quantify displacement of Seattle area residents as part of a legislative effort that culminated in a series of amendments to landlord-tenant law. This included an extension to the required notice to vacate from 3 to 14 days for evictions based on overdue rent.

Transportation Access: A variety of CUAC-affiliated projects have combined large transportation data sets with demographic and sociological data to examine transit patterns, access, and equity issues across the Seattle and Vancouver metropolitan areas. UW’s Anat Caspi developed AccessMap, an app to help people in wheelchairs negotiate steep slopes, construction sites, and other obstacles, which is now available in Seattle, Bellingham and Mt. Vernon, Washington. Researchers have also partnered with cities, startups and companies to evaluate new mobility options like bike-share, car-share, e-scooters, and phone apps and services.

Public Health: Modeling led by Martino Tran of the UBC Urban Predictive Analytics Lab has identified populations that are socially excluded from health care facilities based on commute times, and shown that the projected transit needs of seniors in Surrey, British Columbia, will be outstripped within ten years. Two additional teams of researchers at UW and UBC are exploring relationships between social determinants of health and neighborhood health outcomes, to create a predictive model that will inform local and regional policies; and correlating and modeling very high spatial resolution air quality data with public health outcomes to support interventions at the neighborhood level.

Responsible Data Science: CUAC co-director Bill Howe has taken a leading role in developing data-sharing platforms and creating synthetic datasets to support data integration and analysis, while protecting privacy and reducing bias and discrimination. As part of this work, collaborators at UW and UBC deployed a cloud-based data-sharing platform. An invitation-only workshop was held at Data & Society Research Institute in New York City with participation from leading computer scientists, statisticians, and social scientists to articulate a new interdisciplinary field of responsible data science.

Legal Frameworks for Cross-Border Collaboration: A group of law students and professors at UBC and UW generated a comparative analysis of the legal differences in data sharing regulations between the US and Canada through meetings in Vancouver and Seattle. This work, known as the Cascadia Law Initiative, compares the basic legal powers available to cities in British Columbia and Washington State, and examines the impacts on communities’ abilities to effectively address technology-related problems common across the border.

Data Science for Social Good (DSSG): CUAC has contributed to the UW DSSG program at the eScience Institute, and assisted with the launch of the UBC DSSG program in summer 2017. The student fellowship program matches interns with project leads from academia, nonprofits, government or industry to conduct data-intensive projects for public benefit. CUAC has supported 15 projects conducted by 63 students and 22 mentors and data scientists at UW and UBC.

For more information, explore the CUAC website or contact Emily Keller at efkeller@uw.edu.