About

Clayton Aldern is a writer and data scientist interested in science and society. Based in the Pacific Northwest, he's currently working on a book about the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on neurochemistry, behavior, decision-making, and mental and emotional health.

His writing has been published by The Atlantic, The Economist, Scientific American, Logic, Sierra Magazine, Crosscut, UN Dispatch, and others. His reporting has been syndicated or otherwise republished by The New Republic, Mother Jones, Vox, Newsweek, Moyers & Company, AlterNet, Fusion, CityLab, Business Insider, and elsewhere. Some of his recent projects in data science and policy evaluation are available here.

Previously, Clayton has worked in computational neuroscience, environmental journalism, and homelessness policy. Most recently, he led the data analysis and program evaluation team for homelessness programs at Pierce County, Washington. These days, he's building out a data-journalism unit at the national environmental magazine Grist. He also directs a data-science and machine-learning consultancy, serves as a research affiliate of the University of Washington's Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, and is a co-founding parter of the artificial intelligence initiative Certified Artificial.

He holds a master's in neuroscience and a master's in public policy from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes scholar. He is a Salzburg Global Fellow, a Seattle CityArtist, a Climate Reality Leader, and a recipient of an Artist Trust GAP Award, among other honors. He conducted his undergraduate work in neuroscience at Brown University. He is originally from Minnesota.

You can get in touch via his contact page or on Twitter @compatibilism.

Selected Writing

Clayton's essays and journalism have appeared in several print and digital outlets. A reasonably complete list is automatically compiled at Muck Rack, and most of his academic work is available on ORCID. Selected works follow below.

On climate change and mental health

  • "Mountaintop-removal country's mental health crisis" (Grist)
  • "How climate change is messing with your mind" (Crosscut)

On environmental policy

  • "Counties that voted for the president get more in disaster relief" (The Economist)
  • "Cartographers Without Borders" (Logic)

On neuroscience and society

Selected interviews

  • Actor Alec Baldwin, on climate justice and the Equator Prize
  • Neuropsychologist Aaron Reuben, on air pollution and dementia

Selected video

His current writing project is a book about the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on neurochemistry, behavior, decision-making, and mental and emotional health.

Selected Projects

Clayton is active as a data scientist and public-policy researcher. A research affiliate of the University of Washington's Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, his current interests include stochastic-process modeling of public-policy interventions (especially in housing and homelessness), the governance and ethics of artificial intelligence (especially with respect to AI fairness and accountability), and the neurobiological impacts of rapid environmental change. Some relevant projects follow below.

In homelessness policy

  • A simulation of coordinated entry. (Statistical model and D3.js visualization, inspired by Nathan Yau's work on time use.)
  • A probabilistic graphical modeling approach to racial equity analysis in coordinated entry systems. With C Aylward Guilmette. (Intro slides; paper forthcoming)
  • Communicating homelessness and crisis-response system performance. (Tableau visualization)

In machine learning and artificial intelligence

  • Certified Artificial: a certification service for AI companies and thought-leaders. With Tim Hwang. (Website)
  • Verify: a Chrome extension leveraging the public CAT-L database. (Chrome store)
  • Applying statistical learning models in social services to identify systemic racial disparities. (Example slides; papers forthcoming)

Other

  • Caldern LLC: consulting services in data science, machine learning, and policy analysis and evaluation. (Website)
  • Post-Katrina FEMA trailer maps. With Heather Smith and Nick Shapiro. (Article)
  • Some other old maps. (Carto)

He has also worked with the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford; the Burwell Laboratory of Memory and Attention, the International Health Institute, the School of Public Health, and the School of Professional Studies at Brown University; and organizations like Building Changes, Passle, Marblar, and Social Justice Fund NW.

Press and
media mentions

Clayton's reporting has been cited in several recent books, including Leslie Davenport’s clinician’s guide Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change (Jessica Kingsley), Charles Harper and Monica Snowden’s textbook Environment and Society: Human Perspectives on Environmental Issues (Routledge), and Julie Rehmeyer’s popular science memoir Through the Shadowlands (Rodale).

Other work has been featured, excerpted, or pointed to by various organizations, including IEEE Spectrum, Smithsonian, NRDC, the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, KNKX (NPR), New Climate Economy, Daily Kos, Real Clear Science, Real Clear Energy, Treehugger, This Changes Everything, The American Geophysical Union Blogosphere, The Climate Justice Project, Campaign for America's Future, The Center for Creative Ecologies, The Lowy Institute, Renewable Energy Watch, The Intentional Endowments Network, Marine Science Today, The TerraMar Project, and various law reviews.

Due to a completely inconsequential email subscription on John Podesta's behalf, Clayton also technically appears in the Podesta Emails by way of a message conspicuosly titled "Paris and the wolfpack."

Contact

This form is not secure. If you need to send a secure message or tip, you should use the PGP fingerprint BC5E 04BD 14E0 5D28 88C5 C0C8 C37B A328 3BD8 90B2 or email aldern [at] pm [dot] me.

Consulting queries should be addressed to Caldern LLC.

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