Conferences & Symposia

Understanding and Improving Cities

Policy/Research Partnerships in the Digital Age
Understanding and Improving Cities

"Understanding and Improving Cities: Policy/Research Partnerships in the Digital Age" brought together civic leaders, scholars, local practitioners, and students to discuss current and future research and policy collaborations. The event featured panel discussions in which scholars and officials discussed work being done in Boston and other locales on education, public safety, economic development, and public management, including several initiatives that are using new data sources in novel ways. Conference participants also had opportunities to explore new partnerships in small-scale conversations. The day’s program concluded with remarks and discussion with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, whose administration is committed to making Boston’s data more accessible and using that data to improve the lives of citizens.

The Twitter hashtag for the conference was #CityData. 

For additional information about the conference, contact David Luberoff, Senior Project Advisor at the Boston Area Research Initiative (, or Steve Poftak, Executive Director, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston (

The event was organized and sponsored by:

The Boston Area Research Initiative
The City of Boston
The Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston

Major funding for the was conference provided by:

The Boston Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
The National Science Foundation
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University
The Phyllis & Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation

Additional support came from:

The Initiative on Cities at Boston University
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The NULab
Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science
Northeastern’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities
The Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School



8:30 a.m.

Registration and Refreshments

9 a.m.

Welcoming Remarks

Jeffrey Liebman
, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy; Director, Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and Director-Designate, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Harvard Kennedy School

Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Harvard University

Mary Jo Meisner, Vice President for Communications, Community Relations, and Public Affairs, The Boston Foundation

9:30 a.m.

Using Partnerships and Predictive Analyses to Improve Public Safety

Brenda Bond
, Associate Professor of Public Administration, Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University

Daniel Mulhern, Director of Public Safety Initiatives, Mayor's Office, City of Boston

Cynthia Rudin, Associate Professor of Statistics, Sloan School of Management, and Director, Prediction Analysis Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Moderated by Christopher Winship, Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University and Co-Director, Boston Area Research Initiative

10:30 a.m.


10:45 a.m.

Learning from Boston’s Success: Research, Partnerships, and Initiatives in Education

Joshua S. Goodman
, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

John McDonough, Interim Superintendent, Boston Public Schools 

Elizabeth Pauley, Program Director, Education to Career, The Boston Foundation

Moderated by Nancy E. Hill, Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Suzanne Murray Professor, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

11:45 a.m.
1 p.m.

Creating a New Data Ecosystem in Greater Boston

Jascha Franklin-Hodge
, Chief Information Officer, City of Boston

Jessica Martin, Director, The Boston Indicators Project

Daniel O’Brien, Assistant Professor, Northeastern University and Research Director, Boston Area Research Initiative

Moderated by Eric Gordon, Associate Professor and Executive Director, Engagement Lab, Emerson College and Faculty Associate, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University

2:00 p.m.

Working Together to Bring the Innovation Economy to Boston’s Neighborhoods

John Barros
, Director of Economic Development, City of Boston

Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University and Director, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Harvard Kennedy School

Kathy Kottaridis, Executive Director, Historic Boston, Inc. 

Moderated by J. Keith Motley, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Boston

3:00 p.m.

Using Policy/Research Partnerships to Understand and Improve Boston

Remarks by and Discussion with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh

3:30 p.m.

Moving Forward with Policy/Research Collaborations

Edward L. Glaeser
, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics and Director, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Harvard University

Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University and Director, Boston Area Research Initiative

3:45 p.m.

Reception and Poster Session Featuring SOME Notable Policy/Research Partnerships in Boston

List of presenters