Rice University Will Research Policy Making in Texas

Criminal justice and housing are some of the topics the Texas Policy Lab will focus on

Rice University will launch the Texas Policy Lab, an initiative to work side by side with Texas' lawmakers and state agencies.

Rice University announced Thursday the launch of its Texas Policy Lab, an initiative to work side by side with Texas' lawmakers and state agencies to solve some of the state's most pressing problems.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) is supporting the initiative, which will be officially launched in the fall, with a $6.6 million grant.

Social Sciences Dean Antonio Merlo said the lab will provide the executive and legislative branches of the Texas government with information and evaluation results on an ongoing basis.

"The demand for evidence-based policy is steadily rising on national, state and local levels," Merlo said. "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."

Evidence-based policy decisions

Rice President David Leebron said the new lab will expand the university's impact at the state and national level. "This will undoubtedly become one of Texas' preeminent organizations for supporting evidence-based policy decisions in the state, and have an impact across the nation. It strongly complements the new social policy analysis program in both undergraduate and graduate education."

The policy lab's goal is to increase the adoption of effective social policies, improve Texas state and local governments' capacity to use scientific evidence and technology in policy making, and train future and current leaders to be critical evaluators, savvy stewards of public funds and drivers of solutions.

The policy lab's professional staff and affiliated faculty have significant expertise in evaluating programs related to criminal justice, housing, early childhood education, military veterans and preventative services directed at families, mothers and children.

Untapped information

"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 Chief Executive Officer 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."

Ekim Cem Muyan will serve as executive director of the Texas Policy Lab. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and most recently worked as an associate at Cornerstone Research, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., that provides economic and financial analysis in all phases of commercial litigation and regulatory proceedings.

The lab's faculty affiliates will come from Rice's School of Social Sciences and other Texas universities and institutions, representing a broad range of fields.

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