Delaying or refusing vaccinations and examining the financial effects of Alzheimer’s Disease before diagnosis are among the faculty projects receiving support from the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Massive Data Institute (MDI).

“Vaccine refusal and the financial effects of health crises are critical topics in healthcare today,” said McCourt School dean Edward Montgomery. “The MDI is excited to support Georgetown faculty and their affiliates on these projects.”

Interdisciplinary Research

  • The $40,000 MDI seed grants are aimed at early-stage projects using large data sets that increase knowledge and research of complex issues in interdisciplinary fields, and which the school believes are likely to generate external funding. The institute awarded three grants to Georgetown scholars conducting research at the intersection of big data and public policy.
  • In a project titled, “Harnessing big data to understand the causes and consequences of vaccine refusal for childhood infectious diseases,” assistant professor of biology in Georgetown College Shweta Bansal and her co-investigators Stacey Kaltman associate professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University Medical Center and Rochelle Tractenberg, associate professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center will harness the potential of a unique high-resolution dataset on insurance claims to geographically localize vaccination concerns, identify the socio-economic factors that drive this behavior, and confirm the epidemiological consequences of these concerns.
  • McCourt School professor Jean Mitchell, along with co-investigators Carole Roan Gresenz of The RAND Corporation, and Howard Federoff, former executive dean and professor of neurology at the Georgetown University Medical Center and current vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of medicine at UC Irvine, in a project titled “Linking the Consumer Credit Panel Survey to Medicare Claims, will analyze Medicare claims records and data from the Consumer Credit Panel Survey to investigate an array of issues at the nexus of health and economic well-being. The researchers will initially use the new database to examine financial outcomes among patients with Alzheimer's Disease during the particularly vulnerable time period--before the disease is diagnosed.
  • In partnership with the Georgetown Environment Initiative, the MDI has also awarded a grant to study the socio-environmental drivers of disease transmission among bottlenose dolphins. Assistant professor of biology in Georgetown College Shweta Bansal, Eric Patterson, assistant research professor of biology, Lisa Singh, associate professor of computer science, and professor of biology Janet Mann will develop modeling tools and mining algorithms to study morbillivirus disease dynamics using a combined methodology that integrates knowledge from the well-studied Shark Bay, Australia bottlenose dolphins with newly collected data on Mid-Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Massive Data for Economic Development

The MDI is pleased to welcome Dr. Andrew Crane-Droesch, who recently completed his Ph.D. at the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California at Berkeley, as a postdoctoral fellow for AY 2015-2016.

His research interests include economic development and environmental change in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically agriculture, soil carbon, climate change adaptation and mitigation.

While at the MDI, Dr. Crane-Droesch will use big data to examine, among other topics, ways in which climate changes impact agriculture, especially in the developing world.  He will also teach a big data course in the spring.

The MDI was created during the founding of the McCourt School of Public Policy in the fall of 2013. The mission of the Institute is to use technology to help solve the urgent and complex public policy challenges of the 21st century. The Institute uses large data sets to increase the understanding of society and human behavior to improve policy decision-making.