Daniel O'Brien
Northeastern University
Daniel O'Brien

Dr. Daniel T. O’Brien is a leader of the burgeoning field of “urban informatics”, which uses modern digital data to better understand and serve local communities. He is Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University and Director of the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), an interuniversity center that is an international model for advancing place-based, civically-engaged research that leverages data to benefit local communities.

Dr. O’Brien researches the physical and social conditions of neighborhoods and the citywide systems that serve them, often emphasizing questions of equity. This mission has allowed him to study many different subjects, including crime, education, transportation, climate resilience, public health, and public infrastructure, resulting in 50+ peer-reviewed publications and coverage from multiple media outlets, including Wired, The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. He has raised $9M for his work, including grants from the National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and others. His book The Urban Commons (Harvard University Press; 2018) won the American Political Science Association’s Dennis Judd Best Book Award for work on urban and local politics.

Dr. O’Brien has designed programs for educating and supporting others in the practice urban informatics. BARI’s annual conference convenes researchers, public officials, community-based organizations, and others engaged in data-driven research and practice in greater Boston. BARI’s Boston Data Portal makes research-ready data describing the people and places of Boston accessible to multiple levels of data literacy, from data scientists to everyday residents. BARI also offers public urban informatics education for community-based organizations and high school students. His textbook, Urban Informatics (Chapman Hall / CRC Press; 2022), which is based on curricula he developed for Northeastern University’s Masters of Science in Urban Informatics, is freely available online.