Big Data and Displacement

How can we use big data to better inform our understanding of forced migration?

Our Work

This project aims to develop methods and approaches for using big data in conjunction with traditional administrative and survey data to understand and eventually forecast mass movement of people who are forced to migrate. Our initial case study is Iraq. The site will be used to highlight both the theoretical and data driven methodologies that our project team uses as we advance research in this space.

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Research Methods

Our interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, social scientists, and humanists bring their disciplinary expertise to the problem of forced migration. Our high level method looks at ways to integrate different methodologies to better understand the decision making process, as well as the movement taking place.

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Drivers of Movement

While there are a number of theories and frameworks explaining the drivers of movement, or more specifically forced migration, many are very linear and do not adequately account for shifts in patterns of displacement. This makes it difficult to understand when, where and how displacement will take place. We propose a new theoretical model for capturing the drivers of movement within the decision-making process.

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Research Findings

Since 2014 our interdisciplinary team has published results about forced migration, algorithms for extracting signals from unstructured data and our project methodology. Our work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, Canada, and the Massive Data Institute (MDI) at Georgetown University.

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Analytics Tools and Data

Our indirect indicators of movement (big data variables) and exploratory tools are available to social scientists studying forced migration. We have created both visual analytic tools and a data portal to support research in this area. Our interactive visualizations attempt to highlight the relationship between chatter and buzz from 100s of millions of tweets in both English and Arabic on Twitter and ISIS movement through Iraq.

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Project Team

We are an interdisciplinary collaborative across universities, NGOs, and national labs. The core work takes place at Georgetown University and York University.

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