Researchers at the Boise State Public Policy Research Center recently earned a $97,000 grant for big data planning from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how people perceive big data and how it can be used in criminal justice situations.
The NSF funding is just one portion of an overall $11 million in grants that is set aside for the Big Data Hubs and Spokes Projects. These funds will also go to planning activities later this year. In addition, the NSF will invest over $110 million in research for big data during fiscal year 2017.
“The underlying idea is big data is the ‘next big thing’ but the concern is that a lot of big data is manipulated, unintentionally or intentionally, at some point in the line before it reaches the decision makers expected to use the data,” Eric Lindquist, director of the center, who will act as the principle investigator of the project, said. “Data scientists create an algorithm and say, ‘This is what you should do, how you should view this data.’ But a lot of that may be biased.”
During recent years, there has been more and more pressure to gather huge amounts of data to evaluate, analyze and resolve complicated and touchy social issues, like police violence and riots. These “big data” approaches are complex for agencies to handle and access without being seen as Big Brother-style government involvement.
“We’ve heard this claim before, the idea that data can be used to rationalize and streamline various processes in government, and big data seems to be the next iteration of that,” Kimberly Gardner, a doctoral student in the School of Public Service’s Public Policy and Administration program, who proposed the big data project, said. “This grant lays the foundation for us to study this idea at length and develop the next research proposal on the topic.”
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