Boston’s 911 Data Project

This project investigates methods for community-responsive data analysis and for working with datasets created by city institutions—in this case the Boston Police Department’s 911 data. The project enables the BRC to consider privacy concerns and other ethical issues that arise in publishing research based on contemporary data.

2018 Pilot

The project team authored a report examining data from the Boston Police Department’s 911 system to illustrate the challenges of using data collected for one purpose to answer new and emerging research questions. For more information, read the 2018 pilot summary.

Project Team

Jack McDevitt—Director, Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern

Stephen Douglas—Doctoral Student, School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Keller Sheppard—Doctoral Student, School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Project Details

In collaboration with faculty at Northeastern’s Institute on Race and Justice, this project builds on existing expertise in research with city-wide crime data to develop a paper outlining the potential—and the challenges—of using big data to address new research questions.

The project team worked in the Fall 0f 2018 to develop recommendations for the use of Big Data sets, and the specific opportunities and challenges for working with the Boston 911 data. The project team considered dataset design issues, political and ethical issues, the need for stakeholder input, data contextualization and interpretation, and other considerations to suggest concerns that will need to be addressed in order for the BRC to accommodate projects working with sensitive data. The project will also provide input to the BRC planning team on how to develop an advisory board and foster relationships with community members and policymakers.