Insider, September 2021
The Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) brings together academics, policymakers, and community leaders to examine how data and technology can reshape the city’s future. “We put a real focus not just on cool technology and efficiency,” Dan O’Brien, director of BARI, told Insider, but how these tools can enhance equity, justice, democracy, sustainability, and resilience in Boston.
The multi-university partnership consists of the city of Boston, Northeastern University, where the organization is housed, Harvard University, and other higher-education institutions in the area. Its mission is to collaborate on research projects and offer insights into daily life in the city to help policymakers better understand and serve residents.
City-university partnerships are critical to digital transformation, as city agencies are consumed by “the daily grind of running a city,” O’Brien, who’s also an associate professor of public policy and urban affairs, criminology, and criminal justice at Northeastern University said. “Universities bring skills and extra capacity to the table to design research studies, execute research studies, to evaluate, and just to help ask questions.”
BARI has worked with Boston on several projects, including examining how residents use the city’s nonemergency reporting system, studying urban heat islands, and hosting an annual conference to discuss and find solutions for the city’s biggest challenges.