Universities building California Policy Lab

Universities building California Policy Lab

The California Policy Lab, a data warehouse of administrative information from state and local agencies, aims to make it easier for policymakers to research issues from education and criminal justice to social services and labor.

CPL Project Director Jesse Rothstein,  a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said that governments have “gotten wise to the value of their data,” recognizing it can be used to analyze the performance of state programs and initiatives. California, however, has not been able to execute on that realization, he said.

Currently, policies governing data sharing in California are complicated. For example, if policymakers want to know how many food stamps recipients went into the criminal justice system, then both agencies -- the Department of Social Services and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- would have to negotiate a bilateral memorandum of understanding. This process can make an afternoon project extend into a six-month long investment, Rothstein said.

Right now there are many unknowns. The exact contents of the data warehouse can’t be determined until the data-sharing agreements are finalized, though Rothstein said most of it will be administrative data that focuses on the individual citizen rather than department budget or operational information. The data will allow researchers to conduct longitudinal analyses on the education system, the labor market, the corrections system, the social services and other government agencies or services, and evaluate how policies affect these different program areas.

Even though the data warehouse will likely be an internal facing tool, ensuring the privacy and security of the data is paramount. The storage options and user interface decisions will be made in collaboration with government agencies, he said.

The CPL has already begun its first collaborative research projects on basic program performance measurements with state and local law enforcement and social welfare agencies. The lab began the research just over a week ago and it will take a few months before completion, Rothstein said.

In its first year, the lab will have a staff of three or four people, Rothstein said. And once the data warehouse begins to fill up, “the kind of research we’re able to do will expand.”

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.


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