Guidelines for Projects
Table of Contents
- The Nature of the Policy Lab
- The Educational Purpose of Policy Lab Projects
- Faculty Commitment to, and Responsibility for, Projects
- Overarching Policies Governing Policy Lab Projects
- Student Credit
The Nature of the Policy Lab
The Policy Lab encourages and assists faculty in providing opportunities—interdisciplinary, when possible—for students to learn by doing policy analysis or regulatory drafting for policy makers and others seeking to improve public policy. Borrowing the term from schools of public policy, we refer to these opportunities as practicums.
The Policy Lab has three main functions:
- a brokering function, helping to bring interested students, faculty, and policy makers together on practicums of mutual interest and benefit.
- an administrative support function, providing necessary assistance to student-faculty teams working on particular practicums—for example, providing funds for travel and other expenses, or providing teaching fellows to assist in administering practicums.
- an academic support function, assessing students’ needs for skills needed to conduct policy analysis and finding ways of providing them, whether through existing courses or through the design of new courses or seminars. In 2013-14, we are piloting a two-unit, limited enrollment seminar, designed mainly for students engaged in Policy Lab practicums, which will teach skills including writing for policy audiences, research design, and polling.
The primary purpose of Policy Lab practicums is educational—to give students opportunities to develop knowledge about particular areas of public policy and the skills of policy analysis, including the ability to communicate policy findings. Though we anticipate that projects will be of value to policy makers as well, they should be designed with the educational aim in mind.
The Educational Purpose of Policy Lab Projects
The primary purpose of Policy Lab projects is educational—to give students opportunities to develop knowledge about particular areas of public policy and the skills of policy analysis, including the ability to communicate policy findings.
Faculty Commitment to, and Responsibility for, Projects
A Policy Lab project is, in effect, a directed research opportunity, supervised by a member of the faculty (tenured or tenure track, professor (teaching), senior lecturer, or professor of practice) or a Senior Visiting Policy Fellow. As in the case of other directed research opportunities, the faculty member and students should specify in advance the educational goals of the project and how they will be achieved, including the terms of faculty supervision.
When a Policy Lab project involves an undertaking to deliver an output (e.g., a policy analysis or draft regulations) to policy makers, the supervising faculty is also responsible for agreeing with the policy maker and students on the terms of the deliverables.
Overarching Policies Governing Policy Lab Projects
- Conflicts of interestFaculty members or students working on a project should disclose any conflicts of interest to each other and to clients. A conflict might arise out of working for or representing an organization or client where the supervising faculty member or students have a direct personal or financial interest in the outcome of the project or have taken a particular position with respect to the subject of the project.
- Openness in research. Policy Lab projects are subject to Section 1.4 of the University’s Research Policy Handbook, which provides that “the principle of openness in research—the principle of freedom of access by all interested persons to the underlying data, to the processes, and to the final results of research—is one of overriding importance.” The Handbook permits certain exceptions, including the need to protect confidentiality. Confidential client information provided for Policy Lab projects must be identified in writing in advance, and must not be so extensive as to render the work product unpublishable.
- Advocacy. The principal purpose of the Policy Lab is to teach students policymaking skills and knowledge in the context of real policy issues. This work may include drafting legislation, since legislation is a major instrument of policy, but the function of the program is not to influence legislation, but to teach. The Policy Lab will not engage in activities that influence legislation within the meaning of 26 USC 4911(d) and its attendant regulations, or that constitute unlawful or regulated lobbying under applicable federal or state laws. If faculty members or students have any questions about whether proposed activities are permissible, they should initially contact Paul Brest, who will refer them to University counsel if necessary.
 We can imagine situations where a policy maker would benefit from student work—for example, routine data analysis—that has no substantial educational value, and these are not suitable for Policy Lab projects. By the same token, while a project may benefit a faculty member’s research, the goal is to educate students and not to provide research assistance to the faculty member.
 Presumptively, they would be published under a Creative Commons attribution-only license.