Keeping it Fresh: Predict Restaurant Inspections

Flag public health risks at restaurants by combining Yelp reviews with open city data on past inspections. An algorithmic approach discovers more violations with the same number of inspections. #civic

$5,000 in prizes
aug 2015
604 joined

Submissions Close:

July 7, 2015, 11:59 p.m.

Evaluation Period Ends:

Aug. 19, 2015, 11:59 p.m.

Place Prize Amount
1st $3,000
2nd $1,000
3rd $1,000

Challenge Summary

The City of Boston regularly inspects every restaurant to monitor and improve food safety and public health. As in most cities, health inspections are generally random, which can increase time spent on spot checks at clean restaurants that have been following the rules closely — and missed opportunities to improve health and hygiene at places with more pressing food safety issues.

Each year, millions of people cycle through and post Yelp reviews about their experiences at these same restaurants. The information in these reviews has the potential to improve the City’s inspection efforts, and could transform the way inspections are targeted.

A team of Harvard economists and Yelp – with support from the City of Boston – are co-sponsoring this competition to explore ways to use Yelp review data to improve the inspections process. We are looking for your help to achieve this goal.

Winning algorithms will be awarded financial prizes — but the real prize is the opportunity to help the City of Boston, which is committed to examining ways to integrate the winning algorithm into its day-to-day inspection operations.

The goal for this competition is to use data from social media to narrow the search for health code violations in Boston. Competitors will have access to historical hygiene violation records from the City of Boston — a leader in open government data — and Yelp's consumer reviews. The challenge: Figure out the words, phrases, ratings, and patterns that predict violations, to help public health inspectors do their job better.

The competition opens Monday, April 27th and will accept submissions for eight weeks. Submissions will be evaluated on fresh hygiene inspection results during the six weeks following the competition; after that, the prizes will be awarded. Your submission will not only put you in the running for the prize – it has the chance to transform how city governments ensure public health.