Urban Science IntensiveFrequently Asked Questions


Q: What is the Urban Science Intensive?
A: The Urban Science Intensive (USI) is a four-month applied urban informatics project that is the experiential learning focus of the CUSP M.S. program. It partners graduate student teams with a faculty advisor and a public agency or private sector organization that is looking to address a critical urban issue.  USI projects approach real-world challenges through problem identification and evaluation, data collection and analysis, data visualization and communication, and finally, product formulation and testing. Student teams utilize urban informatics techniques within the constraints of political, social, and financial considerations as well as address issues of data privacy, validity, and transparency. USI projects create innovative and replicable approaches to pressing urban concerns.


Q: Who works on USI projects?
A: USI teams are comprised of four to six students CUSP students, a CUSP advisor, and a sponsor lead.  All students are candidates for the M.S. Applied Urban Science and Informatics. Students enter the one-year master’s program from a range of academic and professional backgrounds and rapidly develop their skills in urban informatics techniques. CUSP students possess a full range of data science skills, including in: data mining and processing; database management; data analysis (machine learning, modeling); visualization; and web integration.

CUSP advisors include faculty and research scientists from a range of fields, from the physical sciences and math to social sciences and practitioners.  For more information about CUSP faculty and researchers, please visit: http://cusp.nyu.edu/people/.


Q: Is this the first year of the USI Capstone program?
A: No. This is the fourth year of the program, which started in the academic year 2013-2014 with CUSP’s inaugural MS cohort. Since that time, we have successfully completed more than 30 projects with two dozen project sponsors, primarily City agencies. More information on previous USI Projects is available on the CUSP website.


Q: What makes a good USI project?
A: The best USI projects are impact-driven and include a coherent, well-defined urban problem. An effective USI project:


Q: What is the USI project timeline?
A: Students work commences in March 2017 and concludes in late July 2017. There are several key milestones in advance of the student-led component of the project:

January 20th, 2017: Project proposal deadline
Early-February 2017: Project selection notification
March 24th, 2017: Students assigned to projects, and preliminary work begins
July 28th, 2017: Student work concludes with project reports and final presentations


Q: How does my organization submit a project proposal?
A: Please submit a USI Project Proposal form online by January 20th, 2017.


Q: What are the expectations of the project sponsors?
A: We seek project sponsors that are engaged and enthusiastic about the use of data science in improving city operations and planning. We expect project sponsors to identify a primary Point of Contact for the project who will ensure data sharing agreements are executed; will provide regular feedback on the students’ work, through periodic meetings and review of progress reports and presentations; and will be able to attend the final project presentations in July. The specific expectations and time commitment will vary by the needs of the specific project, but we would anticipate that the project sponsor be able to commit 1-2 hours every two weeks to the above activities. Our student teams are very capable, and this level of engagement will help to ensure the final deliverables and output provide value for, and are of use to, the project sponsor.


Q: Are any agreements needed for the USI Projects?
A: Yes. For City agencies (and the MTA and Port Authority), a Project Agreement will be developed and executed, which describes the project purpose, scope, and expected outputs. This document also outlines data sharing protocols and any restrictions on shared data. The Project Agreements are subject to the MOU between CUSP and the City of New York. We have executed several dozen Project Agreements with multiple agencies, and have a template that guides the process. There is a good chance that a Project Agreement is already in place, or has been executed previously, with your agency. Please do not hesitate to contact us at cusp.usicapstone-group@nyu.edu for more details.

For project sponsors other than New York City agencies, a data sharing agreement will be needed. These documents are similar to the Project Agreements described above.


Q: How are city agency datasets secured and accessed for USI Projects?
A: The CUSP Data Facility is a secure research data environment with datasets, tools, and expert staff to provide research support services to students, faculty, and city agency employees.  The CUSP Data Facility (CDF) connects all of these users to relevant datasets for urban policy research. The CDF reduces the multiple technical, legal, bureaucratic, capacity, and cost barriers to data access, so that the full research, policy, and operational benefits of data products can be realized by academic researchers and students, City analysts and managers, and other key partners in urban science.

We recognize that much of the data we manage, from streaming sensor data to agency administrative data, is sensitive and we handle it accordingly. The CUSP Data Facility’s Safe Data Environment comprises a multi-faceted approach to maintain safe data, through safe people, projects, settings, and outputs.  This approach combines technical protocols, user policies, and user-centered design in order to ensure adherence to data governance requirements.

The Data Facility and Student Capstone Projects – CUSP students and faculty and host agencies are encouraged to perform all Capstone research within the Data Facility.  CUSP will process new project data and create project workspaces where designated team members can work with their project-specific datasets and collaborate on data analysis and visualization.  Other data facility users will not have access to the project workspace.


Q: Is there a fee associated with USI Projects?
A: There is no fee associated with the 2017 USI projects.


Q: Who do I contact if I have additional questions?
A: Please email cusp.USIcapstone-group@nyu.edu or call (646) 997-0554 for any additional questions about the Urban Science Intensive Program.