Ferguson PD and The Chicago Community Data Project

Source: https://flic.kr/p/5Yaq6zSource: https://flic.kr/p/5Yaq6z
bSci21 contributing group
“Saving the world” with behavior analysis has been an ambitious dream since the science of behavior was founded.  The field of behavior analysis has been type-casted over the past 20 years for being narrowly focused and overly specialized in applications such as intellectual disabilities, special education, and autism related services.  Although the majority of applied behavior analytic activities have been directed toward this relatively narrow range of problems, there are a plethora of complex issues facing the “world,” including energy conservation, eating habits, and other areas of social concern.
At the 27th International Precision Teaching Conference a few Brohavior members were fortunate to participate in a symposium with a presenter who was actively influencing policy and changing the world with behavior analysis.  Patrick Marcotte and Regina Maendler have started a project entitled The Chicago Community Data Project. The project has a humble goal of creating data displays that allow everyday citizens to see their community’s data. The hope is that community leaders and members will be able to use these data to make important decisions.  Currently the site hosts information on crime rates in the various communities of Chicago, however, they hope to host data from a wide range of targets including the average number of hotline calls for pot hole repairs and the actual number of repairs performed. Although at first glance this may seem like a novel project with limited scope, it is reasonable to believe that projects such as this will provide a model for our science to become active participants in the larger scientific community that is becoming increasingly pragmatic, focused on behavior change. 
In recent news, the Ferguson Police Department was under investigation by the Justice Department for racial profiling. In their report, the Justice Department concluded that the police were indeed engaging in these practices.  All behavior analysts should be interested in the recommendation that systems be created to frequently monitor and track data such as those in the police department.  It is possible that a system like The Chicago Community Data Project could empower both the police department and the citizens to make informed, data-based, decisions on a variety of issues.


The field of behavior analysis frequently uses visual inspection for data analysis and is therefore in a position to offer assistance in creating user-friendly data displays that accurately and precisely represent the information to a wide range of audience members.  This is an opportunity for behavior analysts to gain significant influence by assisting public offices and community members in objective data analysis.  If you are interested in large scale applications of behavior analysis and assisting in saving the world with behavior analysis, I suggest you contact The Chicago Community Data Project and offer collaboration. 

Please share your thoughts about The Chicago Community Data Project in the comments below!  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

About the Author:
Following graduation of maters programs many behavior analysts find themselves in a cold dark world where they are searching for the light of peers that share their approach to the subject matter of behavior. One online group called Brohavior (derived from “brotherhood”) has recently created a refuge for behavior analysts looking for the light in order to continue their own development. The group aims to create a collaborative environment where students of behavior analysis are exposed to and pursue behavior analytic literature, philosophy and research that is outside of the scope of the BACB approved course sequence. 

About the Author

President, bSci21 Media, LLC Editor, bSci21.org

7 Comments on "Ferguson PD and The Chicago Community Data Project"

  1. How does informed consent work with the population of the entire planet?

  2. Funny you should ask. I have a few research projects going now that IRB said don’t need consent because we aren’t looking at particular identifiable individuals. So that would be how.

  3. Influencing ten people without their permission isn’t ethically different than influencing one person without his or her permission. It doesn’t get more ethical by adding zeros.

  4. Influencing people has nothing to do with it. It is influencing people with the intent to publish the results in journals, books, or conference presentations. We are all influenced all the time without permission. In my research mentioned above, it is social media based so we are influencing many hundreds of people.

  5. Starting the post with “saving the world” with behavior analysis implies more than just collecting data. It implies that somehow analyzing behavior will lead to something practical. This is the issue that caused William James to create pragmatism. i.e. Intellectual behavior apart from the broader environment or any connection with actually doing anything. You mentioned Ferguson as if the DOJ needed some kind of expert behavior analytic way to collect and interpret data that they don’t already have – but based your comment on their creation and presentation of data. How do you know their data is valid if behavior analysts didn’t create it? How do you know that your perspective would yield insight that the current examination does not? As behavior analysts are “evidence based” I would suggest that you examine the evidence of issues such as Ferguson before claiming that your statistical analysis and charting will be some how superior to what already exists. In the end, the DOJ study was created to offer the opportunity to punish people – the only behavioral effect at their legal disposal. As you have never been trained in the use of aversive control, you’d have to study that first before you could give an objective analysis of the broader context. Get crackin’.

  6. Your previous comment was discussing IRB issues. What IRB cares about is how the data will be used. Behavior analysis stems directly from the pragmatic tradition with the goals of the prediction and influence of behavior. Every behavior analyst is trained in the use of aversive procedures. Brohavior, the authors of the article, looked at the Chicago Community Data Project and found a point of potential collaboration for behavior analysts. Some of your questions on the specifics of the article would be best addressed to Brohavior via the hyperlinks in the post. Also, I invite you to check out the recent article on New Hampshire police rewarding lawful behavior with gift certificates.

  7. Nitpicky point: Williams James did not “create” pragmatism as a philosophy or worldview, nor did he coin the term (he may have been the first to use it in print, but he credited Charles Sanders Peirce with coining it decades earlier).

    In other news: Todd, the “Reply” button below each comment doesn’t seem to work (at least on my Chrome browser), otherwise I would have replied specifically to Gary’s comment above. :)

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