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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New

This week’s list of data news highlights covers December 13-19 and includes articles about how data can be used to tackle gender inequality and the White House’s new disaster data portal.

1. Obama Opposes Data Localization

According to a leaked U.S. trade proposal from April 2014, the Obama administration is pushing for the 50 countries involved in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), currently being negotiated, to reject policies that require companies to store data within their country’s borders.The move comes in response to efforts by some nations to implement such data localization requirements in the wake of revelations about mass electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies.

2. ONC to Improve Health Data Sharing

The omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress for 2015 instructs the Office of the National Health Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to decertify electronic health record systems that block the sharing of health information. ONC is required to submit a report in 90 days that assesses hospitals and providers that block information and crafts a strategy to solve this issue that touches on the technical, operational, and financial barriers to interoperability. Practices that inhibit sharing of health data pose a significant threat to the transparency, interoperability, and quality of electronic health records.

3. Intention Analysis, the Next Step of Sentiment Analysis

Lexalytics, a text and sentiment software analysis company, has developed an analytics tool that estimagenometes a person’s objectives based on their online activity. Called intention analysis, the tool relies on grammar-parsing technology that can determine motives behind Twitter posts that do not necessarily explicitly state intentions. Lexalytics expects its tool to be used by retailers to determine customers’ buying patterns and law enforcement agencies to identify which online posts signal an intent to do harm.

4. The National Data Science Bowl Kicks Off

Management and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and online data science community Kaggle have launched the National Data Science Bowl to have data scientists compete to carry out the best analytics research. The 90-day competition will have participants compete to develop algorithms advancing the study of ocean health at the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University. The results of the competition are anticipated to generate over one million dollars of value for the Center, with the top three contestants receiving a prize of $175,000.

5. Using Big Data to Tackle Gender Inequality

Data2X, a collaboration between the Clinton Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, the William Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is using big data to educate policymakers about gender inequality. The project, announced by Hillary Clinton, will focus on six areas where better data would be beneficial, such as women’s work and unemployment and gender data in U.S. foreign assistance programs. The goal of the project is to collect and analyze data about gender inequality around the world to give policymakers a clearer view of the issues faced by women and help create more effective solutions.

6. New UCLA Institute to Help Doctors Mine Data

The new Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will tackle the problem of how to analyze the available medical data underutilized by the medical community. The institute was created to build the tools researchers and doctors need to make use of the overwhelming amount of medical data, such as electronic health records and DNA sequences. The institute will also focus on developing tools to integrate different kinds of data, such as sleep pattern and exercise data, so that doctors can better understand diseases and develop treatments.

7. San Diego Adopts Open Data Policy

San Diego’s city council voted to adopt an open data policy and will be releasing troves of government data to the public. The goal of the open data policy is to boost transparency and innovation by giving the public and entrepreneurs access to valuable data sets, which can also be used to crowdsource solutions to local problems. The city expects its data will be fully available to the public starting in July 2016 after it spends time organizing and making the data usable.

8. White House Unveils Disaster Data Portal

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched the disaster.data.gov portal to aggregate open data related to disasters around the country. The portal is designed to serve as a public resource to those affected by disasters and help the government and private sector respond to crises. The portal was created as part of the White House’s Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative.

9. Detecting Skin Cancer with Visual Machine Learning

By using cognitive computing-based visual analytics, a team from IBM Research was able to identify skin cancer more quickly and more accurately than with traditional methods. By analyzing thousands of images, the technology was able to identify melanoma with a 95 percent accuracy rate, which is a considerable improvement from the 75 to 84 percent accuracy rates of commonly used, primarily manual methods. Once the technology is commercialized, images can be analyzed in fractions of a second, which the team hopes will improve treatment of skin cancer which affects nearly 5 million a year in the United States alone.

10. New Database Educates Renters on Convicted Landlords

A new UK database created by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, a charity and environmental health organization, compiles information about private landlords prosecuted for safety violations. The first of its kind database provides renters with a guide to 68 offences by 57 companies–information that was only recently made available by the Ministry of Justice. The database was created in an effort to better educate renters about potentially dangerous living conditions and to prevent convicted landlords from continuing criminal practices.

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