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Presented by MinneAnalytics. Hosted by Boston University Questrom School of Business.
Thursday, August 23 • 11:15am - 12:00pm
Data Science to Save the Environment

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What if I told you I had evidence of a serious threat to American national security – a terrorist attack in
which a jumbo jet will be hijacked and crashed every 12 days. Thousands will continue to die unless we
act now. This is the question before us today – but the threat doesn’t come from terrorists. The threat
comes from climate change and air pollution.

We have developed an artificial neural network model that uses on-the-ground air-monitoring data and
satellite-based measurements to estimate daily pollution levels across the continental U.S., breaking the
country up into 1-square-kilometer zones. We have paired that information with health data contained
in Medicare claims records from the last 12 years, and for 97% of the population ages 65 or older. We
have developed statistical methods and computational efficient algorithms for the analysis over 460
million health records.

Our research shows that short and long term exposure to air pollution is killing thousands of senior
citizens each year. This data science platform is telling us that federal limits on the nation’s most
widespread air pollutants are not stringent enough.

This type of data is the sign of a new era for the role of data science in public health, and also for the
associated methodological challenges. For example, with enormous amounts of data, the threat of
unmeasured confounding bias is amplified, and causality is even harder to assess with observational
studies. These and other challenges will be discussed.

Press coverage links
NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/28/534594373/u-s-air-pollution-still-kills-thousands-every-year-study-concludes
Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-air-pollution-death-20170628-story.html
New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/well/even-safe-pollution-levels-can-be-deadly.html?_r=0
Podcast: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/multimedia-article/harvard-chan-this-week-in-health-archive/

avatar for Francesca Dominici, PhD

Francesca Dominici, PhD

Professor of Biostatistics. Director WiML, Co-Director of the Data Science Initiative at Harvard

Thursday August 23, 2018 11:15am - 12:00pm
Room 406 Boston University Questrom School of Business, 595 Commonwealth Avenue Boston

Attendees (55)