Monday, October 09, 2006


Ninja hackerI had a fascinating coversation with a colleague of mine, Bill Tomlinson, who is joining the fields of ecology and informatics. Ecology is a data-intensive field, but the huge quantities of data gathered in studying the structure and function of living systems tend to be under-used. Professor Tomlinson and his collaborators are developing a research program that would use the tools of informatics to mine significantly more informational value from the existing mountains of ecological data, just as bioinformatics has been uncovering patterns hidden within the existing mountains of genetic data.

Perhaps the approach could be extended even further to analyze data on how environmental, natural resource, and land use laws affect living systems. Legislation such as the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, The Endangered Species Act, and the cases, regulations, and rules that interpret and implement them are pregnant with information, as are the many empirical studies that have tried to gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of these laws in achieving their stated aims. I think the insights that could be gained by cleverly applying the powerful approaches of informatics to this third mountain of data could bring a great leap forward in our understanding of law and the living systems it affects.

Aside from Jim Chen, I wonder how many law professors know how to code?


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