90-866, Large Scale Data Analysis for Policy

Sample Syllabus from Fall 2012

Course Description

The past decade has seen the increasing availability of very large scale data sets, arising from the rapid growth of transformative technologies such as the Internet and cellular telephones, along with the development of new and powerful computational methods to analyze such datasets. Such methods, developed in the closely related fields of machine learning, data mining, and artificial intelligence, provide a powerful set of tools for intelligent problem-solving and data-driven policy analysis. These methods have the potential to dramatically improve the public welfare by guiding policy decisions and interventions, and their incorporation into intelligent information systems will improve public services in domains ranging from medicine and public health to law enforcement and security.

This course will provide a basic introduction to large scale data analysis methods, focusing on three main problem paradigms (prediction, modeling, and detection). Students will learn how to translate policy questions into these paradigms, choose and apply the appropriate artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, and correctly interpret, evaluate, and apply the results for policy analysis and decision making. We will emphasize tools that can "scale up" to real-world policy problems involving reasoning in complex and uncertain environments, discovering new and useful patterns, and drawing inferences from large amounts of structured, high-dimensional, and multivariate data. No previous knowledge of artificial intelligence or machine learning is required. (Note: this course was previously listed as "Artificial Intelligence Tools for Policy", and is not open to students who have previously taken 90-866.)

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

Class Schedule

Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:30-2:50pm, Hamburg Hall 1004

Lecture slides

Module I: Prediction (pdf)
Module II: Modeling (pdf)
Module III: Detection (pdf)


Class participation: 5%
Project plan: 10%
Project progress report: 10%
Project presentation: 10%
Final project report: 25%
Final exam: 40%

The projects will be done in groups of three students and will require the application of machine learning methods to real-world policy data. We plan to give each team the flexibility to define their own project, enabling them to focus on policy questions which are most relevant to their own specific interests. However, each project should consist of the following components:

Project teams will be assigned by the course instructor, but assignments will be based on student preferences. Please e-mail Daniel and Sriram by Friday 10/26 if you either a) have a team of three, or b) have a particular topic you'd like to work on. Typically, all team members will receive the same grade, but we may make exceptions for unevenly distributed workloads. Final project reports should describe the contributions of each team member to the project.

Occasionally, we will hand out short practice exercises to reinforce understanding of the course material. You do not need to turn these in. We will post answers with explanations on Blackboard, and these should help you study for the final exam (Tuesday December 11th, 9-10:30am, GHC 4307).

Course Policies

Collaboration Policy: Projects will be done in groups of three students; we encourage discussion among teams about the projects, but any work that is submitted for grading must be the work of your team alone. Most importantly, your answers on the final exam must reflect your work alone. Sanctions for cheating include lowering your grade including failing the course. In egregious instances, the instructors may recommend the termination of your enrollment at CMU.

Late Work Policy: You are expected to turn in all work on time (at the start of class on the due date). Because we understand that exceptional circumstances may arise, each team will be permitted to turn in one of their three project reports up to 48 hours late with no penalty. Any other late assignments will not be accepted.

Re-grade Policy: Project grading is inherently subjective, and thus we do not generally consider re-grade requests. We will make exceptions to this rule in cases where we have made an error in grading; in this case, requests must be submitted in writing to the course instructor, and all resulting decisions are final.

Assignments and Due Dates

Project plan due Wednesday 11/7
Project progress report due Wednesday 11/21
Project presentations Wednesday 11/28 and Monday 12/3
Final project report due Friday 12/7, 11:59pm.

Module I: Prediction

(M 10/22) Lecture 1: Introduction to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for Large Scale Data Analysis
Course overview
Relevance of ML for policy
Common ML paradigms
Software tools for ML

(W 10/24) Lecture 2: Prediction, Rule-Based Learning
The prediction problem (classification and regression)
Decision trees for classification and regression

(M 10/29) Lecture 3: Instance-Based Learning
K-nearest neighbors for classification
Kernel regression

(W 10/31) Lecture 4: Model-based learning
Bayesian classification
The naive Bayes assumption

Module II: Data Modeling

(M 11/5) Lecture 5: Representation and Search
Goal-directed search: priority search and A*
State-space search: hill-climbing and simulated annealing

(W 11/7) Lecture 6: Clustering for Modeling Groups
Hierarchical clustering
K-means clustering
Leader clustering

(M 11/12) Lecture 7: Bayesian Networks for Modeling Probabilities
Building Bayes Nets
Interpreting Bayes Nets

(W 11/14) Lecture 8: More Bayesian Networks
Inference with Bayes Nets
Learning Bayes Net structure

Module III: Detection

(M 11/19) Lecture 9: Anomaly Detection
Distance-based anomaly detection
Model-based anomaly detection
Detecting anomalies using Bayesian networks

(M 11/26) Lecture 10: Pattern Detection
Detecting patterns of anomalies
Spatial cluster detection
Applications to disease surveillance

(W 11/28) Project Presentations

(M 12/3) Project Presentations, continued

(W 12/5) Guest Mini-Lectures: "Advanced Detection Methods," presented by students in the Event and Pattern Detection Laboratory.

(T 12/11) FINAL EXAM, 9-10:30am, GHC 4307