Welcome to another installment of Data Tells a Story, in which we round up our latest favorite data stories. This week: when college is worth it; creating new foods; and protecting our forests.
A study from the Gallup-Purdue Index has shown that “six elements of emotional support and experiential learning in college” are correlated with “long-term career and life success.”
The study involved 30,000 US college graduates and examined “the degree to which graduates were engaged in their work and thriving in their purpose, social, financial, community, and physical well-being,” all predictors of outcomes such as worker productivity, absenteeism, and healthcare cost burden, and many more.
The Gallup research found that 25% of US college graduates “fail to thrive in their overall careers and lives,” and that same percentage miss out on all six of the elements correlated with success.
The six elements include a professor who made them “excited about learning”; a supportive mentor; the chance to work on a long-term project; an internship; and high involvement in extra-curricular activities.
Sure, our wearables tell us how many steps we’ve taken, how many calories burned, how much sleep we’ve gotten (or how little), but what do we do with all this data?
One platform uses data from wearables, apps, and services to find patterns and trends that users can act upon. Self-reported data such as mood can be measured against other data like number of steps, amount of sleep, or what music you’re listening to, which might show, for example, correlation between mood and physical activity, quality of sleep, or type of music.
The platform also recognizes unusual activity — a change in bedtime is one example — that the user might not have noticed.
While Uber uses big data to optimize transportation, Airbnb to streamline lodging, and big pharma to discover new drugs, other startups are using big data to create new foods.
One small team of data scientists is building “a massive database of all known plant proteins,” which could amount to as many as 18 billion, with the idea of creating “new food sources for an expanding global population—sources that are cheaper, safer, and healthier than what we have today.”
With this database, the researchers can target their efforts by predicting how proteins will interact; identifying “combinations likely to produce enjoyable foods”; and pinpointing “what will produce the right tastes, textures, and colors.”
Data scientists and rainforest conservationists are teaming up to use big data to predict instances of illegal logging, which endangers wildlife and makes climate change worse.
The team is using deep learning — a type of artificial intelligence “that involves processing tremendous amounts of data to solve problems in a way that roughly mimics the human brain” — to analyze “satellite images of tens of millions of acres of forest…to discover patterns that identify indicators of deforestation risk,” such as “road-building in previously undisturbed areas.”
With such predictive data, authorities can be alerted even before the tree cutting begins
Three cities are taking advantage of open data by using it to make life better for their residents.
In New Orleans, both city officials and citizens “can evaluate the city’s progress in confronting urban blight” through the BlightSTAT program. The mayor’s office also uses the BlightSTAT data to make decisions about the fight against blight, which has decreased by 30 percent since the program began in 2010.
San Francisco has partnered with Yelp to make restaurants’ health inspection data more readily available (as we discussed in an earlier post), which not only lets city residents know about food hazards, it has the potential to “shame repeat-offender restaurants into complying with health standards.”
Finally, Louisville has partnered with a medical service provider to plant GPS trackers in inhalers. The trackers “measure when and where in the city people use them most,” and matches these “hotspots of inhaler-user with air quality data” so that public officials can better target their interventions.