On July 20, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser SPA/MPP'00 announced the creation of a new data research effort that will call on the expertise of social scientists to inform and improve policy. AU School of Public Affairs is a leading academic partner in the effort.
"By standing up a network of scientists inside D.C. Government, we are infusing pragmatic, scientific thinking into our day-to-day operations," said Mayor Bowser. "The Lab at DC allows us to know how well our policies and programs are working, and provides us the opportunity to learn while we act."
The Lab, which will use data and evidence to inform decision making across DC Government, is funded by a $3.2 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a national non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of individuals by strengthening social, governmental, and economic systems. The Lab now has 15 dedicated scientists from a wide array of backgrounds with graduate-level training in psychology, economics, sociology, anthropology and more.
SPA Interim Dean Vicky Wilkins, who spoke at the event, said, "We appreciate the unique opportunity The Lab @ DC gives our researchers to conduct studies and analyses on the very things that have the greatest impacts on their lives as residents of the District. The Lab allows us to use data, and not anecdotes, to define problems and create solutions."
City Administrator Rashad Young said the data driving projects like these has great potential to redesign and improve government in Washington and all across the country.
"You can't manage what you can't measure, and by using the scientific method we are getting the best possible measurements to inform how we manage the city," said Young. "That means we are learning from the evidence that exists in the world, while taking the next step of generating our own evidence so that we can know what works in the D.C. context."
One of the first efforts organized by the Lab @ DC was "Form-a-Palooza", which was hosted at American University on July 22. Form-a-Palooza was a public workshop providing D.C. residents with an opportunity to review and address challenges with government forms. Attendees worked on five different forms - from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Disability Services, and the Department of Energy and Environment - each selected for their rate of errors, omissions, and questions.
"Over the past several weeks, my Administration has been highlighting how the government and the community can work hand-in-hand to make our city even better, and this event was a great example of how we are doing that," said Mayor Bowser. "At today's event, residents shared their ideas for making forms more efficient and easier to use. Now, my team will take those ideas and put them into action."
More information on future events and activities of the Lab @ DC is available on their