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  1. Mapping of spatial hotspots, i.e., regions with significantly higher rates of generating cases of certain events (e.g., disease or crime cases), is an important task in diverse societal domains, including public health, public safety, transportation, agriculture, environmental science, and so on. Clustering techniques required by these domains differ from traditional clustering methods due to the high economic and social costs of spurious results (e.g., false alarms of crime clusters). As a result, statistical rigor is needed explicitly to control the rate of spurious detections. To address this challenge, techniques for statistically-robust clustering (e.g., scan statistics) have been extensively studied by the data mining and statistics communities. In this survey, we present an up-to-date and detailed review of the models and algorithms developed by this field. We first present a general taxonomy for statistically-robust clustering, covering key steps of data and statistical modeling, region enumeration and maximization, and significance testing. We further discuss different paradigms and methods within each of the key steps. Finally, we highlight research gaps and potential future directions, which may serve as a stepping stone in generating new ideas and thoughts in this growing field and beyond. 
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  2. Sustainable development requires an accelerated transition toward renewable energy. In particular, substantially scaling up solar photovoltaics (PV) adoption is a crucial component of reducing the impacts of climate change and promoting sustainable development. However, it is challenging to convince local governments to take action. This study uses a combination of propensity score matching (PSM) and difference-in-differences (DID) models to assess the effectiveness of a voluntary environmental program (VEP) called SolSmart that targets local governments to engage in solar-friendly practices to promote the local solar PV market in the United States. Via specific designation requirements and technical assistance, SolSmart simplifies the process of acting on interest in being solar friendly, has a wide coverage of basic solar-friendly actions with flexible implementation, and motivates completion with multiple levels of designation. We find that a local government’s participation in SolSmart is associated with an increased installed capacity of 18 to 19%/mo or with less statistical significance, an increased number of installations of 17%/mo in its jurisdiction. However, SolSmart has not shown a statistically significant impact on soft cost reductions to date. In evaluating the impact of the SolSmart program, this study improves our understanding of the causation between a VEP that encourages solar-friendly local government practices and multiple solar market outcomes. VEPs may be able to promote shifts toward sustainable development at the local level. Our findings have several implications for the design of VEPs that promote local sustainability. 
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  3. Abstract. Given aggregated mobile device data, the goal is to understand the impact of COVID-19 policy interventions on mobility. This problem is vital due to important societal use cases, such as safely reopening the economy. Challenges include understanding and interpreting questions of interest to policymakers, cross-jurisdictional variability in choice and time of interventions, the large data volume, and unknown sampling bias. The related work has explored the COVID-19 impact on travel distance, time spent at home, and the number of visitors at different points of interest. However, many policymakers are interested in long-duration visits to high-risk business categories and understanding the spatial selection bias to interpret summary reports. We provide an Entity Relationship diagram, system architecture, and implementation to support queries on long-duration visits in addition to fine resolution device count maps to understand spatial bias. We closely collaborated with policymakers to derive the system requirements and evaluate the system components, the summary reports, and visualizations. 
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  4. Spatial variability is a prominent feature of various geographic phenomena such as climatic zones, USDA plant hardiness zones, and terrestrial habitat types (e.g., forest, grasslands, wetlands, and deserts). However, current deep learning methods follow a spatial-one-size-fits-all (OSFA) approach to train single deep neural network models that do not account for spatial variability. Quantification of spatial variability can be challenging due to the influence of many geophysical factors. In preliminary work, we proposed a spatial variability aware neural network (SVANN-I, formerly called SVANN ) approach where weights are a function of location but the neural network architecture is location independent. In this work, we explore a more flexible SVANN-E approach where neural network architecture varies across geographic locations. In addition, we provide a taxonomy of SVANN types and a physics inspired interpretation model. Experiments with aerial imagery based wetland mapping show that SVANN-I outperforms OSFA and SVANN-E performs the best of all. 
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