THE HUMAN FOOTPRINT
Researchers from three universities are collaborating on a project to create a global map of urbanization to get a better understanding of the human footprint and its impact on the environment. The “Worldwide: Mapping Urbanization” crowdsourcing campaign asks volunteers to tag about a half-million satellite images based on the level of urbanization and development.
“People can go to the website, view an image, and tag it as ‘built up’ or ‘not built up.’ These tags will then be recorded and added to the overall data, inserted into our machine algorithms,” says Ran Goldblatt of the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California in San Diego and a researcher at the school’s
Big Pixel Initiative. The Big Pixel Initiative team is developing machine-learning methods designed to map cities around the world by determining—pixel by pixel—whether plots of land are paved or otherwise covered by manmade surfaces.
The “Worldwide: Mapping Urbanization” campaign is a joint project with Goldblatt and Gordon Hanson of the Big Pixel Initiative, Matei Georgescu of Arizona State University in Tempe, and Amit K. Khandelwal, director of the Chazen Institute for Global Business at Columbia Business School in New York City. The pilot project launched in April.
AN UPGRADE FOR MODELING
The Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) has received a US$6.6 million commitment from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to develop tools to evaluate the economic and budgetary impact of federal policy proposals.
PWBM, a nonpartisan applied research organization housed at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania, combines economic modeling, big data science, cloud computing, and visualization tools to allow users to test policy ideas before legislation is drafted. The new funding will allow PWBM to develop new tools for modeling of global transactions and forecasts regarding the impact of policy—on topics including taxes, international trade, Social Security, and immigration—over an extended time horizon.
The Yale School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, has raised US$10 million to expand its Yale Program on Financial Stability (YPFS). As part of this expansion, the school will launch the Crisis-Response Project, an effort to identify best practices and provide training to help governments fight the effects of systemic financial collapses. To support the project, the YPFS will create an online collection of case studies that highlight policymakers’ best practices and common mistakes.