Making Sense of Urban Science

Why do some cities grow, and others decline? What makes one city different from another, and what commonalities do they share? What is a city anyways?
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Why do some cities grow, and others decline? What makes one city different from another, and what commonalities do they share? What is a city anyways?

In the early 2010s, scientists from a broad range of disciplines launched a wide range of new efforts to address these fundamental questions about the nature and dynamics of cities. This “new urban science” is both global and local, basic and applied. It harnesses vast new volumes of “exhaust data” culled from computing clouds that track entire populations—even as it struggles to engage citydwellers more ethically in the research process itself. It is, if nothing else—coming at the right moment. The surge in investment and institution-building comes as global urbanization enters it peak period of development. It is an urgent time, and an uncertain one. Never before have human beings built so much with such haste.

The Cities of Data project, jointly funded by the Knight Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, and hosted at the Data & Society Research Institute, documented this movement during 2014-2015.

Making Sense of the New Urban Science

The world’s leading universities have embarked on a building boom for urban research. This report is an initial attempt to understand the collective scope and impact of this movement. What does this new science seek to achieve? What questions are they pursuing? What methods do they use? What are they learning? How might their discoveries shape our destiny?

Making Sense of the New Urban Science

Will the new urban science be an inclusive endeavor? What role is there for the growing ranks of increasingly well-equipped and well-informed citizen volunteers and amateur investigators to work alongside professional scientists? How are researchers, activists and city governments exploring that potential today? Finally, what can be done to encourage and accelerate experimentation? This report examines three case studies that provide insight into emerging models of citizen science, highlighting the possibilities of citizen-university-government collaborative research, and the important role of open data platforms to enable these partnerships.

Making Sense of the New Urban Science

The world’s leading universities have embarked on a building boom for urban research. This report is an initial attempt to understand the collective scope and impact of this movement. What does this new science seek to achieve? What questions are they pursuing? What methods do they use? What are they learning? How might their discoveries shape our destiny?

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