Behavioural science is unlikely to change the world without a heterogeneity revolution


Article by Christopher J. Bryan, Elizabeth Tipton & David S. Yeager: “In the past decade, behavioural science has gained influence in policymaking but suffered a crisis of confidence in the replicability of its findings. Here, we describe a nascent heterogeneity revolution that we believe these twin historical trends have triggered. This revolution will be defined by the recognition that most treatment effects are heterogeneous, so the variation in effect estimates across studies that defines the replication crisis is to be expected as long as heterogeneous effects are studied without a systematic approach to sampling and moderation. When studied systematically, heterogeneity can be leveraged to build more complete theories of causal mechanism that could inform nuanced and dependable guidance to policymakers. We recommend investment in shared research infrastructure to make it feasible to study behavioural interventions in heterogeneous and generalizable samples, and suggest low-cost steps researchers can take immediately to avoid being misled by heterogeneity and begin to learn from it instead….(More)”.

The Business of City Hall


Paper by Kenneth R. Ahern: “Compared to the federal government, the average citizen in the U.S. has far greater interaction with city governments, including policing, health services, zoning laws, utilities, schooling, and transportation. At the regional level, it is city governments that provide the infrastructure and services that facilitate agglomeration economies in urban areas. However, there is relatively little empirical evidence on the operations of city governments as economic entities. To overcome deficiencies in traditional datasets, this paper amasses a novel, hand-collected dataset on city government finances to describe the functions, expenses, and revenues of the largest 39 cities in the United States from 2003 to 2018. First, city governments are large, with average revenues equivalent to the 78th percentile of U.S. publicly traded firms. Second, cities collect an increasingly large fraction of revenues through direct user fees, rather than taxes. By 2018, total charges for services equal tax revenue in the median city. Third, controlling for city fixed effects, population, and personal income, large city governments shrunk by 15% between 2009 and 2018. Finally, the growth rate of city expenses is more sensitive to population growth, while the growth rate of city revenues is more sensitive to income. These sensitivities lead smaller, poorer cities’ expenses to grow faster than their revenues….(More)”.

Beyond the promise: implementing ethical AI


Ray Eitel-Porter at AI and Ethics: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications can and do have unintended negative consequences for businesses if not implemented with care. Specifically, faulty or biased AI applications risk compliance and governance breaches and damage to the corporate brand. These issues commonly arise from a number of pitfalls associated with AI development, which include rushed development, a lack of technical understanding, and improper quality assurance, among other factors. To mitigate these risks, a growing number of organisations are working on ethical AI principles and frameworks. However, ethical AI principles alone are not sufficient for ensuring responsible AI use in enterprises. Businesses also require strong, mandated governance controls including tools for managing processes and creating associated audit trails to enforce their principles. Businesses that implement strong governance frameworks, overseen by an ethics board and strengthened with appropriate training, will reduce the risks associated with AI. When applied to AI modelling, the governance will also make it easier for businesses to bring their AI deployments to scale….(More)”.

Open data governance: civic hacking movement, topics and opinions in digital space


Paper by Mara Maretti, Vanessa Russo & Emiliano del Gobbo: “The expression ‘open data’ relates to a system of informative and freely accessible databases that public administrations make generally available online in order to develop an informative network between institutions, enterprises and citizens. On this topic, using the semantic network analysis method, the research aims to investigate the communication structure and the governance of open data in the Twitter conversational environment. In particular, the research questions are: (1) Who are the main actors in the Italian open data infrastructure? (2) What are the main conversation topics online? (3) What are the pros and cons of the development and use (reuse) of open data in Italy? To answer these questions, we went through three research phases: (1) analysing the communication network, we found who are the main influencers; (2) once we found who were the main actors, we analysed the online content in the Twittersphere to detect the semantic areas; (3) then, through an online focus group with the main open data influencers, we explored the characteristics of Italian open data governance. Through the research, it has been shown that: (1) there is an Italian open data governance strategy; (2) the Italian civic hacker community plays an important role as an influencer; but (3) there are weaknesses in governance and in practical reuse….(More)”.

How Data Can Help in the Fight Against the Opioid Epidemic in the United States


Report by Joshua New: “The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic 20 years in the making….

One of the most pernicious obstacles in the fight against the opioid epidemic is that, until relatively recently, it was difficult to measure the epidemic in any comprehensive capacity beyond such high-level statistics. A lack of granular data and authorities’ inability to use data to inform response efforts allowed the epidemic to grow to devastating proportions. The maxim “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” has never been so relevant, and this failure to effectively leverage data has undoubtedly cost many lives and caused severe social and economic damage to communities ravaged by opioid addiction, with authorities limited in their ability to fight back.

Many factors contributed to the opioid epidemic, including healthcare providers not fully understanding the potential ramifications of prescribing opioids, socioeconomic conditions that make addiction more likely, and drug distributors turning a blind eye to likely criminal behavior, such as pharmacy workers illegally selling opioids on the black market. Data will not be able to solve these problems, but it can make public health officials and other stakeholders more effective at responding to them. Fortunately, recent efforts to better leverage data in the fight against the opioid epidemic have demonstrated the potential for data to be an invaluable and effective tool to inform decision-making and guide response efforts. Policymakers should aggressively pursue more data-driven strategies to combat the opioid epidemic while learning from past mistakes that helped contribute to the epidemic to prevent similar situations in the future.

The scope of this paper is limited to opportunities to better leverage data to help address problems primarily related to the abuse of prescription opioids, rather than the abuse of illicitly manufactured opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. While these issues may overlap, such as when a person develops an opioid use disorder from prescribed opioids and then seeks heroin when they are unable to obtain more from their doctor, the opportunities to address the abuse of prescription opioids are more clear-cut….(More)”.

Finland’s model in utilising forest data


Report by Matti Valonen et al: “The aim of this study is to depict the Finnish Forest Centre’s Metsään.fiwebsite’s background, objectives and implementation and to assess its needs for development and future prospects. The Metsään.fi-service included in the Metsään.fi-website is a free e-service for forest owners and corporate actors (companies, associations and service providers) in the forest sector, which aim is to support active decision-making among forest owners by offering forest resource data and maps on forest properties, by making contacts with the authorities easier through online services and to act as a platform for offering forest services, among other things.

In addition to the Metsään.fi-service, the website includes open forest data services that offer the users national forest resource data that is not linked with personal information.

Private forests are in a key position as raw material sources for traditional and new forest-based bioeconomy. In addition to wood material, the forests produce non-timber forest products (for example berries and mushrooms), opportunities for recreation and other ecosystem services.

Private forests cover roughly 60 percent of forest land, but about 80 percent of the domestic wood used by forest industry. In 2017 the value of the forest industry production was 21 billion euros, which is a fifth of the entire industry production value in Finland. The forest industry export in 2017 was worth about 12 billion euros, which covers a fifth of the entire export of goods. Therefore, the forest sector is important for Finland’s national economy…(More)”.

Citizen Engagement in Energy Efficiency Retrofit of Public Housing Buildings: A Lisbon Case Study


Paper by Catarina Rolim and Ricardo Gomes: “In Portugal, there are about 120 thousand social housing and a large share of them are in need of some kind of rehabilitation. Alongside the technical challenge associated with the retrofit measures implementation, there is the challenge of involving the citizens in adopting more energy conscious behaviors. Within the Sharing Cities project and, specifically in the case of social housing retrofit, engagement activities with the tenants are being promoted, along with participation from city representatives, decision makers, stakeholders, and among others. This paper will present a methodology outlined to evaluate the impact of retrofit measures considering the citizen as a crucial retrofit stakeholder. The approach ranges from technical analysis and data monitoring but also conveys activities such as educational and training sessions, interviews, surveys, workshops, public events, and focus groups. These will be conducted during the different stages of project implementation; the definition process, during deployment and beyond deployment of solutions….(More)”.

Leveraging Private Data for Public Good: A Descriptive Analysis and Typology of Existing Practices


New report by Stefaan Verhulst, Andrew Young, Michelle Winowatan. and Andrew J. Zahuranec: “To address the challenges of our times, we need both new solutions and new ways to develop those solutions. The responsible use of data will be key toward that end. Since pioneering the concept of “data collaboratives” in 2015, The GovLab has studied and experimented with innovative ways to leverage private-sector data to tackle various societal challenges, such as urban mobility, public health, and climate change.

While we have seen an uptake in normative discussions on how data should be shared, little analysis exists of the actual practice. This paper seeks to address that gap and seeks to answer the following question: What are the variables and models that determine functional access to private sector data for public good? In Leveraging Private Data for Public Good: A Descriptive Analysis and Typology of Existing Practices, we describe the emerging universe of data collaboratives and develop a typology of six practice areas. Our goal is to provide insight into current applications to accelerate the creation of new data collaboratives. The report outlines dozens of examples, as well as a set of recommendations to enable more systematic, sustainable, and responsible data collaboration….(More)”

The Colombian Anti-Corruption Referendum: Why It Failed?


Paper by Michael Haman: “The objective of this article is to analyze the results of the anti-corruption referendum in Colombia in 2018. Colombia is a country with a significant corruption problem. More than 99% of the voters who came to the polls voted in favor of the proposals. However, the anti-corruption referendum nonetheless failed because not enough citizens were mobilized to participate. The article addresses the reasons why turnout was very low…

Conclusions: I find that the more transparent a municipality, the higher the percentage of the municipal electorate that voted for proposals in the anti-corruption referendum. Moreover, I find that in municipalities where support for Sergio Fajardo in the presidential election was higher and support for Iván Duque was lower, support for the referendum proposals was higher. Also, turnout was lower in municipalities with higher poverty rates and higher homicide rates…(More)”.

Identifying Citizens’ Needs by Combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Collective Intelligence (CI)


Report by Andrew Zahuranec, Andrew Young and Stefaan G. Verhulst: “Around the world, public leaders are seeking new ways to better understand the needs of their citizens, and subsequently improve governance, and how we solve public problems. The approaches proposed toward changing public engagement tend to focus on leveraging two innovations. The first involves artificial intelligence (AI), which offers unprecedented abilities to quickly process vast quantities of data to deepen insights into public needs. The second is collective intelligence (CI), which provides means for tapping into the “wisdom of the crowd.” Both have strengths and weaknesses, but little is known on how the combination of both could address their weaknesses while radically transform how we meet public demands for more responsive governance.

Today, The GovLab is releasing a new report, Identifiying Citizens’ Needs By Combining AI and CI, which seeks to identify and assess how institutions might responsibly experiment in how they engage with citizens by leveraging AI and CI together.

The report, authored by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Andrew J. Zahuranec, and Andrew Young, builds upon an initial examination of the intersection of AI and CI conducted in the context of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Opening Governance. …

The report features five in-depth case studies and an overview of eight additional examples from around the world on how AI and CI together can help to: 

  • Anticipate citizens’ needs and expectations through cognitive insights and process automation and pre-empt problems through improved forecasting and anticipation;
  • Analyze large volumes of citizen data and feedback, such as identifying patterns in complaints;
  • Allow public officials to create highly personalized campaigns and services; or
  • Empower government service representatives to deliver relevant actions….(More)”.