Policy by the Numbers

Data for sound policymaking from Google and friends


This Week in Data: 11/16/2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Highlights of the week's stories about all things data.

  • In a piece on GigaOm, Ki Mae Heussner looks at tools that help normal people tap into the network of medical peer reviews—that is, find out what doctors come highly recommended by other doctors. Heussner writes, "By accessing information in government databases through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, healthcare innovators are now able to share connections between doctors that are based on millions of physician referrals—a valuable indicator of who doctors hold in esteem."

  • On Freedom to Tinker, UNC's Zeynep Tufekci reflects on her New York Times op-ed, "Beware the Smart Campaign." Tufekci's op-ed, and accompanying blog post, argues that the combination of data analytics and social science to assign numbers and corresponding messaging to voting groups threatens public discourse. But posits that data-driven campaigning isn't bad—it just requires transparency to keep public discourse open:
    What is to be done? Campaigns should make public every outreach message so we at least know what they are saying. These messages can be placed in a public database like campaign contributions so the other side can be aware of, and have the right to respond to, false claims. Political access to proprietary databases should be regulated to provide an even playing field.
  • On Wired, Chartio's Dave Fowler urges entities trying to derive insight from data through analysis to forget "big data" and focus on their data. He pleads:
    “Big data” is an impressive buzzword, but don’t get caught up in that. Let’s leave it to the journalists, researchers and marketing departments to tell us what the big data market is. Instead, focus on understanding your data. Your data is much more powerful than big data; in fact, it’s the only data you truly care about.

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