Election among topics for first research projects for UWM, Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute

Voter behavior in the 2020 election is the subject of one of the first research projects for the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute, which is a partnership among the financial security company, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University.

Using a variety of data sources, including online and social media, traditional polling methods, and political advertisements, the big data lens on elections project will determine what issues are on voters’ minds as the 2020 elections approach. The project, which began in January, will shed light on what is likely to drive voter behavior.

The project will be led by Purush Papatla, the institute co-director and UWM professor of marketing, along with Amber Wichowsky, associate professor of political science at Marquette. The research team will include students from both universities.

The first set of projects announced on Wednesday also include collaborations using data science to better understand neighborhood wellbeing and equitable housing, and the opioid crisis.

“These projects are perfectly aligned with the mission and vision of the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute,” Papatla said. “In addition to using data science to solve societal issues, we’re providing opportunities for students to cultivate the skills they will need for a future in data science while introducing them to societal and political issues that have an impact locally and nationally.”

The other projects include:

Walnut Way Data Dream Project: The institute will partner with Walnut Way, a nonprofit neighborhood organization, on a community project that uses data science to understand anti-displacement and equitable housing in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood in Milwaukee.

Data Science to Address Health Crises: Opioids: The institute approved a project that will use public data from local sources and to study opioid overdoses in Milwaukee. The project, which launches Feb. 21, hopes to find insights that may be applicable to other communities across the country. Faculty members from both universities will comprise the project team.

The first findings from the projects are expected to be released this spring.

The Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute is an industry and academic partnership formed to inspire and cultivate passion for data science in the Milwaukee region. Leveraging the strengths of the three institutions, the groundbreaking partnership will contribute $40 million over five years. Its goal is to help build a technology ecosystem and advance southeastern Wisconsin as a national hub for technology, research, business and talent development, while creating an organic pipeline of tech talent in the area.

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