With the goal of advancing the adoption of effective social policies, improving state and local governments' capacity to use scientific evidence and technology, and training future and current leaders to be savvy stewards of public funds, the grant will create the Texas Policy Lab within the university's School of Social Sciences and support cutting-edge research and data-driven analysis that provides policy makers with measurable solutions to critical problems.
The effort is part of a multimillion-dollar national initiative funded by LJAF aimed at bringing together data experts, social scientists, and state officials to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public-sector programs. Similar policy labs in California, Colorado, Michigan, Georgia, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C., are studying a range of issues, including youth employment, recidivism, homelessness prevention, and local policing practices, and have launched about a hundred and fifty research projects aimed at informing bipartisan legislative action and shifts in government spending patterns.
"The demand for evidence-based policy is steadily rising on national, state, and local levels," said School of Social Sciences dean Antonio Merlo. "The ultimate goal of the Texas Policy Lab is to change how policy is developed, implemented, and evaluated. By providing rigorous, unbiased, timely, evidence-based research to key government players in the policy-making process, the lab will have a broad impact and better the lives of every Texan."
"There is untapped information sitting on computers in the state capitol building right now that could help us understand how we get more kids through college or break the cycle of incarceration or move families out of poverty," said LJAF president and CEO Kelli Rhee. "We want to bring together the best researchers in the country with public officials to unlock the power of that data and use it to make real progress on these problems."