Center for Scalable Computing and Analysis

Developing best practices and resources to collect, use, and manage big data

Big data is everywhere—and it holds tremendous potential for researchers and policymakers.

City sensor data can glean insights on predictors of community health. Social media data can help us better understand the spread of political movements. And personal device data can give us a fresh perspective on how people work and play in their day-to-day lives.

All of this data can be used to make inferences about behaviors and make predictions that can inform policy analysis.

The Center for Scalable Computing and Analysis helps policymakers leverage the benefits of big data by developing the best practices and resources necessary to effectively collect, store, process and protect it.

We identify policy questions that could benefit from large-scale data and tools, and catalyze interactions between subject-matter, methods, and data experts.

And we explore conversations about the implications of big data for ethics, equity, privacy, and other social issues.

We do this by building on the rich history of technological and computing innovation here at RAND, where the original JOHNNIAC computer and packet switching data transmission method that enabled the internet was developed.

Our Focus

Our approach to using big data in policy research focuses on three important characteristics: ensuring the right data infrastructure, developing and deploying appropriate algorithms, and understanding the implications of big data—especially the unintended consequences.

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Methods In Action

  • The Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona was built to provide hydroelectricity and flow regulation from the upper Colorado River Basin to the lower


    Using High-Performance Computing to Support Water Resource Planning

    Researchers from RAND and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used high-performance computer simulations to stress-test several water management strategies over many plausible future scenarios in near real time.

  • Equations and formulas behind scales of justice, images by monsitj and DNY59/Getty Images


    Addressing the Challenges of Algorithmic Equity

    Social institutions increasingly use algorithms for decisionmaking purposes. How do different perspectives on equity or fairness inform the use of algorithms in the context of auto insurance pricing, job recruitment, and criminal justice?

  • Two digital faces facing each other, photo by wildpixel/Getty Images


    Artificial Intelligence and the Manufacturing of Reality

    Humans carry flaws in deciding what is or is not real. The internet and other technologies have made it easier to weaponize and exploit these flaws. And artificial intelligence will likely be used to exploit these weaknesses at an unprecedented scale, speed, and level of effectiveness.

  • Composite impage of a hand holding a digital device locked with a padlock symbol


    The Collision of AI and Privacy

    In this Events @ RAND podcast, RAND experts discuss risks to privacy in the age of artificial intelligence.

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Student Spotlight

  • Big Data + Small Stories = Better Policy

    What Max Griswold (cohort '18) likes best about big data are the small stories. He sees scalable computing "as a means to an end, to improve policy. And you need to understand the stories, what the data looks like in the lived experience, to see the big picture."

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Want more information? Interested in working with us? We'd love to hear from you.