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10 Bits: The Data News Hot List

by Travis Korte
The owner of the Sacramento Kings has expressed hopes to turn the team into the NBA's leader in data-driven basketball.

This week’s list of data news highlights covers December 14-20 and includes articles on research into information overload in MOOC forums and grants awarded to build medical research networks.

1. “Parental Controls” for the Car

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off this week on insurance firm Esurance’s plan to offer customers its multi-purpose DriveSafe car safety devices. The device, which plugs into a car’s diagnostic port, can sync with a smartphone app to disable texting or tweeting, while collecting data for parents such as instances of speeding or hard braking.

2. Open Data 500 Released

This week, the New York University Governance Lab published its preliminary Open Data 500 List, comprising companies that draw from open government data sources to create business value. One such company, the Climate Corporation, uses data from NASA, NOAA, the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Geological Survey to predict weather conditions that inform crop insurance pricing. The list’s creators hope their 500 examples of private sector open data use will spur broader support for open data within government.

3. GAO Urges HHS To Focus On Clinical Data Registries

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this week urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ramp up its efforts to foster the growth of clinical data registries, entities that work with physicians treating Medicare patients to collect clinical information. The report argues that such registries can improve quality of care among Medicare beneficiaries, but that HHS’ current implementation plans are too open-ended to provide meaningful data and expand clinical data registry adoption.

4. Reducing Information Overload in MOOC Forums

One challenge for massive open online courses (MOOCs), such as those offered by Coursera, Udacity and EdX, is the high volume of “small talk” in discussion forums. Since courses may have tens of thousands of students, these posts may drown out the useful information students need to learn from one another. To help remedy this, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created an automated system to filter out the “small talk” and help students find discussions that will enhance their learning experience.

5. How Data Will Change the Business and Game of Basketball

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé hopes to expand the use of data analytics in basketball. Ranadivé, the founder and CEO of business software company TIBCO, spoke this week of his hopes that one day basketball coaches will be assisted by real-time analytics at courtside, as well as his vision for growing the global audience for the sport using data analysis.

6. Grants Awarded to Build Medical Research Networks

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the independent, non-profit organization authorized by Congress as part of the Affordable Care Act to provide patients and doctors evidence-based information to make health care decisions, awarded grants this week to begin building a PCORnet, a national network to support more efficient patient-centered research. With this latest round of funding, PCORI is building or expanding 11 clinical data research networks to enable greater data sharing among health care researchers and providers and 18 patient-focused research networks to enable information sharing among patients and their caregivers.

7. Using Facebook to Study Community Migration

Data scientists at Facebook have been able to discover trends of “coordinated migrations,” where at least 20% of the population of one city has relocated to another. They found that the top destination is Lagos, with Istanbul and Bogota coming in at a distant second and third, respectively. The researchers found that while in many cases the migrants come from the same country as the destination city, metropolises such as Istanbul draw high numbers of migrants from residents in neighboring nations.

8. Science Data Lost at a Rate Worse than Expected

A study published in the journal Current Biology this week found that scientific data is being lost at a rapid rate. Within 20 years of publication, 80% of the data behind publicly funded research papers is inaccessible due to issues such as inoperable email addresses and obsolete storage devices. The research was conducted on papers that discuss length measurements of plants and animals, because this data is relatively straightforward to collect and methodologies have not changed dramatically in recent history.

9. A Data-Driven Approach to Patent Search and Analysis

The Lens is an online data exploration and analytics platform for information on worldwide patents. The site, which recently announced a round of funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, offers search and comparison capabilities much more advanced than those available from the official U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site, as well as machine learning capabilities that can help identify shell corporations and other patterns of patent ownership.

10. GrubHub Puts Data on its Plate

Online food ordering company GrubHub is expanding its business to include a smartphone app for delivery drivers and tablets for restaurants to take orders. The goal of the new offerings is ultimately to provide restaurants with data-driven insights collected using GrubHub’s system; for example, the data could be used to predict swells in certain products’ sales, saving restaurants costs in inventory management, or adjust online menus if a restaurant is out-of-stock of certain ingredients.

Photo: Flickr user Matt Britt

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