Luke C. Sanford

Luke Sanford is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Governance at Yale School of the Environment. He graduated in 2021 with a PhD in Political Science and International Affairs from the Political Science department and the School of Global Policy and Strategy. His work focuses on environmental policymaking–especially how political institutions mediate the relationship between the environmental preferences of constituents and the incentives and actions of policymakers. He also studies the distributional consequences over space and time of decisions about natural resources, and how those play in to policymaking. He develops methods for using new sources of digital data, including text and satellite images, to measure individual and group preferences, and to observe outcomes on the ground. He uses those to help understand preferences for different policies, and what the effects of those policies are.

What do you do with data science?

I work on applications of text-as-data and image-as-data to answer causal questions about environmental preferences and policies. In text as data I work on finding and evaluating persuasive texts through the use of topic models and artificial neural networks. I am working on methods to extract persuasive phrases from texts using deep recurrent and convolutional neural networks. I also work on methods for evaluating the impacts of policies using satellite data. This involves both writing new algorithms for improved remote sensing classification and segmentation, and developing methods which allow existing measurement strategies to fit into causal inference frameworks.