Cynthia Rudin: Using Data to Predict Your Future Health

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Cynthia Rudin

From Huffington Post

Have you ever gone on a trip and unexpectedly found yourself in need of medical care? What if your condition could have been predicted? Better yet, what if you already had the medicine needed to treat that condition in your luggage?

The Hierarchical Association Rule Model (HARM), which I co-developed with Tyler McCormick of the University of Washington and David Madigan of Columbia University, can help patients be better prepared by warning them (and their doctors) about the conditions they may likely experience next. The predictive modeling tool checks data about an individual patient against other patients in the database with similar situations to help determine future conditions. It also alerts patients about any higher risks they may have for certain types of conditions.

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Product quality ratings: New research shows secret formulas yield questionable results

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Cynthia Rudin

Consumers rely on product quality rankings to make decisions about all sorts of things, from which graduate school to apply to, to which mutual funds to invest in, to which digital camera to buy. But in light of that fact that many independent rating companies score products using a formula kept strictly confidential, do these rankings provide an accurate measure of quality?

This question is at the heart of my latest research.* The vast majority of rating companies are unwilling to provide a clear-cut and transparent explanation for how they grade products. Most use a formula to score products, but the exact rating given to a product is kept as a trade secret. Not only is the formula kept under lock and key but the exact values of the factors that go into the formula are also not made public. This is, of course, the right of the rating company, but it’s problematic for consumers and companies alike. If the rating company won’t release the formula, it could potentially mean that the rating system isn’t truly a good measure of quality. Read More »

Is reducing risk always worth the price?

A 2008 academic study showed that changing the configuration of the runways of Los Angeles International Airport’s North Airfield would reduce the number of deaths caused by runway accidents. But the panel’s recommendation of what to do about that surprised just about everyone.

MIT Sloan Professor Arnold Barnett chaired the panel, which included faculty from the University of Maryland, George Mason University, Berkeley, MIT, and Virginia Tech. Barnett gave MIT Sloan alumni the inside story of the study, the panel’s conclusion, and the public reaction during his Alumni Weekend 2011 workshop, “Mortality Risks.”

The academic study was the sixth study done to consider widening the space between the runway used for takeoffs and the runway used for landings, as well as how landing airplanes crossed the takeoff runway to reach the terminals. In 2005, then-candidate for mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villeraigosa campaigned that he would only consider reconfiguring the runways for safety reasons. The five previous studies all recommended that moving the runways would improve safety, but neighboring communities all opposed the effort to change the runways. Read More »

Air crash or urban crime—which is more likely to get you?

The risk of being killed in an air crash and the risk of being killed as the victim of an urban crime both have declined dramatically in recent years. And yet, while one is still much more likely to happen than the other, we disproportionately focus and worry about the least likely—of the two—way we could die, concludes MIT Sloan Professor Arnold Barnett.

With an expertise in applied mathematical modeling, focused on health and safety, Professor Barnett presented “Mortality Risks” in a workshop for the School’s alumni during Alumni Weekend 2011.

Barnett’s preference for measuring the safety of air travel is to calculate the death risk per randomly chosen flight—taking a particular set of flights and choosing at random from among them, what is the probability of death because of a problem with the airplane? Read More »