“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.
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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.
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