(Photo by Flickr user Tony Hisgett, used under a Creative Commons license)
Did you know that the D.C. government has an embedded team of social scientists who will, for “at least the next two years,” respond to research requests from any D.C. government agency to study and address public issues? Well, now you do.
The Lab @ D.C. is a departure from how social scientists generally influence the public policy making process, a recent article in Governing points out. Generally these experts are brought in as consultants for one-off projects — but not so with The Lab @ D.C.
Employees of The Lab are full-time D.C. gov employees. They’re also economists and statisticians and data scientists and sociologists and more. “It’s a rare effort by a state or local government to integrate scientific research with the evaluation and creation of public policy,” Governing writes.
“We are trying to expand to a different type of career in government,” Lab director David Yokum told Governing. “What we’re doing in here is on-the-fly [and] in-the-trenches applied research, doing data analytics, doing field experiments. We’re generating evidence in real-time.”
For example, The Lab @ D.C. is currently studying how body-worn police cameras are affecting behavior — both of the police and of citizens. Researchers at The Lab were able to control the way cameras were deployed a few years ago for a well-constructed field experiment and, according to a recent NPR article, the study is now weeks from providing some initial answers.