Category Archives: Big Data

Big Data and Health Care: Prof. Carole Roan Gresenz on Research and Policy

On January 30 the Law Library will host a symposium on the legal issues connected with big data collection, usage, and preservation. The library is blogging about the topic of the conference in anticipation of the event. Today we highlight the work of one of the conference presenters, Carole Roan Gresenz, an economist and professor at the Georgetown School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Dr. Gresenz recently co-authored a report which used a range of data sets to assess cancer related outcomes in the District of Columbia. Entitled “Monitoring Cancer Outcomes Across the Continuum,” her work synthesizes and analyzes available data to document the capacity of the D.C. health care delivery system to provide cancer prevention and treatment services to those who are publicly insured.

The report also highlights gaps in data availability that limit understanding of cancer outcomes among District residents.  On Jan. 30 she will talk about data challenges for assessing health and health care in local communities and what the future of big data holds for better understanding and monitoring  community health.

Please register to join us on Wednesday, January 30 to learn more from her and other distinguished panelists and speakers from a variety of disciplines.

An excerpt from pages vii – viii of Professor Gresenz’s report:

Perhaps as notable and important as the key findings summarized above are the gaps in available information regarding key elements of the cancer continuum. In what follows, we highlight important opportunities for data collection and analysis, noting the scarcity of information for describing outcomes for certain population subgroups, as well as current limitations of data for tracking historical and future trends in outcomes.

(1) More needs to be known about cancer treatment patterns and quality in the District.
More comprehensive data on treatment is needed to assess (a) the full range of treatment received by patients, (b) the degree to which treatment is in accordance with standards for quality of cancer care, and (c) variation in treatment patterns over time and across subgroups of interest.

(2) Regular, continued monitoring and timely reporting of cancer-related outcomes among District residents are essential, as is assuring validity and comprehensiveness of cancer registry data in the District.
Routine, consistent, and timely reporting of cancer-related outcomes in the District is essential to guide the efforts of government and nongovernmental entities working to reduce the burden of cancer in the District.

(3) Supplementary data would provide a more robust understanding of potential barriers to cancer screening.
Self-reports of cancer screening are subject to recall bias, as survey respondents, especially those who are black and Hispanic, tend to overreport screening (Rauscher, Johnson, et al., 2008). Therefore, it would be useful to supplement BRFSS data by exploring rates of screening developed from other data sources, such as claims data, and gleaning information from patient navigators in the Citywide Patient Navigation Network to identify barriers to screening among vulnerable populations.

(4) Opportunities exist to learn more about patient experiences across the continuum.
Although measuring patients’ experiences with cancer care is a critical component of overall quality assessment, to our knowledge, no systematically collected surveys are conducted with cancer patients in the District regarding their experiences with cancer care at any stage of the continuum. Administration of surveys of experiences with cancer treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care could inform quality improvement or consumer choices between cancer treatment facilities.

(5) More information is needed on awareness and knowledge of cancer prevention and control among District residents.
Little empirical data are available regarding the degree to which District residents—overall, or by relevant geographic or sociodemographic subgroups—are aware of cancer risks, protective factors, or the benefits of early detection. The National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey surveys a nationally representative sample of American adults biennially regarding cancer awareness and communication and may present opportunities for identification of gaps in awareness and knowledge in the District.

(6) More attention needs to be given to understanding the regional burden of disease, patient flows across geographic borders, and regional capacity for cancer care.
Many cancers treated in the District are among non-District residents, suggesting the need for exploration of the key drivers of care-seeking across District boundaries and an assessment of health care capacity that encompasses the District and surrounding counties.

Big Data at the Crossroads of Art History and Privacy

On January 30th the law library will host a conference entitled Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information.  By bringing together academics, governmental staff, policy advocates, and librarians, the day-long program will examine how to use data for the public good while protecting personal privacy. 

This is the first in a series of blog postings on the topic of big data.

Jer Thorp is an artist in residence at NYTLabs and is an adjunct professor in New York University’s ITP program. He is also the co-founder of the Office For Creative Research

In an interview with Lauren Drell and in the embedded video below, Thorp demonstrates how designers can use data to create beautiful and meaningful tools for historians and anthropologists to study society.

His projects create poignant narratives specifically by using data which is intentionally personal and yet publicly available.  In his video, Thorp offers an especially thought-provoking statement about the crossroads of art, history, data, and by implication, privacy. for Interdisciplinary Research

For over 10 years, has provided access to federal government scientific research searching “over 55 databases and over 2100 selected websites from 13 federal agencies”.

 As legal scholars and practitioners research across multiple disciplines, this web portal is an excellent starting point for the student working on a space law paper, a practitioner researching the environmental consequences of pesticides or a legal consultant on energy conservation.  The portal even searches the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office databases for those researching applied science and technology issues. Some of the other federal agencies searched include:

  •  NASA
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Agriculture

 The results of a simple search on the home page can be narrowed by topic and date, as well as by text or multimedia. Feel free to ask a reference librarian if you have any questions about researching on the web portal.


Symposium: Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information, Wed. 1/30

Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information, A Symposium in Celebration of 125 Years, Wed. 1/30 at Georgetown Law

In celebration of 125 years, the Georgetown Law Library looks to the future with a symposium of the academic, advocacy, government, and library communities on Wednesday, January 30 at Georgetown Law.

“Big data” is a term perhaps too narrow for the topic: The size of data sets is not the key to big data issues. Rather, it’s the changes in society that are growing along with our ability to discover meaning by connecting points of information electronically, across numerous, vast, and often unrelated stores of data.

This conference will examine the public good and collective harms associated with the large-scale aggregation of information from public and private sources. During the course of the day, panelists will also discuss how scholars, researchers, and information professionals use very large or complex data sets to distill meaning and develop public policy.

Registration is free and open to all. A complimentary lunch will be provided for registered attendees, however space is limited. Register now to reserve your place and view additional information at

CANCELLED: 10/29 Big Data Symposium

Due to inclement weather, Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information: Georgetown Law Library – A Symposium in Celebration of 125 Years will not take place on Monday, October 29. Please check the Georgetown Law Library blog and the symposium webpage in the days to come for any information on a rescheduled event.