New research centre focused on data for decision-making

April 6, 2016

AUT’s new Centre for Social Data Analytics was launched in March.  The Centre is focused on “data analytics for social impact”.

Centre researchers take on work with the potential to address and inform social issues or challenges in core policy areas including health, education, justice and social services.

Their research is based on accessing sets of linked data about a given population (including aspects like health, mental health, education, criminal history, housing etc) and analysing that data to draw conclusions that can advance our knowledge about the determinants of poor outcomes as well as assist agencies with future decision-making.

By analysing linked administrative data, researchers can evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies and programmes and can create tools that can predict the likelihood of future outcomes (for example, child abuse), which can assist in front-line decision making.

The Co-Directors of the Centre, Professors Tim Maloney and Rhema Vaithianathan, spoke at the Centre launch, along with Deputy Prime Minister Hon Bill English, and the Chair of the Data Futures Working Group, Dame Diane Robertson.

“The recent rise in diverse, high quality linked administrative data provides an unprecedented opportunity for collaborating with policy agencies and researchers around the world to do things that previously we couldn’t do,” said Professor Maloney.

Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English, commended AUT for establishing the Centre: “It’s fantastic to see a tertiary institution organising itself in a way that is going to be supportive of the public good that government is trying to achieve,” he said.

The Centre’s approach to data will be unique in its emphasis on innovation, according to co-director Professor Vaithianathan.

“We’re interested in really difficult problems that policy agencies and other partners might bring to us – the things that no one’s managed to solve.”

Centre researchers are working on a number of international projects, including developing a predictive risk model for child abuse to be used by frontline staff in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh (US) and a project with the Children’s Data Network at the University of South California, that will explore why some communities “beat the odds” by achieving better outcomes than predicted by predictive risk modelling tools, and whether those differences can be replicated elsewhere.

The AUT Centre for Social Data Analytics is based in AUT’s Faculty of Business, Economics and Law. For more on the Centre’s staff and current work go to: