Tom Peterson on COP21


Lisa Danzig Discusses Analytical Challenges in the Public Sector

Lisa Danzig, Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management at OMB, spoke at this morning's GAB Forum about the ways in which government agencies can use analytics to improve their performance, and some of the challenges associated with data-driven decision making.

Ms. Danzig identified five key types of analysis:

  1. Descriptive Analysis: Used to summarize data.
  2. Relational/exploratory Analysis: Used to identify patterns and relationships in data.
  3. Inferential/hyothesis-driven Analysis: Used to test of theories of change.
  4. Predictive Modeling: Used to forecast the event occurrences and trends.
  5. Randomized Studies: Used to quantify causal relationships.

The determination about which type of analysis to use depends on the particular research question or problem posed.  

In addition to outlining the different types of analyses used in the public sector, Ms. Danzig noted three challenges to conducing quantitative research: (1) getting access to relevant data (and the data collection process used), (2) linking analyses to meaningful outcomes and (3) building up sufficient analytical capacity to conduct meaningful research.  Overcoming these three challenges will allow government agenices to leverage the massive and increasing amount of data that's now available.  

A recording of the event is available here.


Student Spotlight: Interning at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Richard Benitez is a candidate for the MS in Government Analytics at Johns Hopkins University.  He has contributed the following post to discuss how his degree program has helped advance his career in the field of nuclear engineering and national security.

As an intern at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) working within the Nuclear Engineering and Analysis Group-Signatures Science & Technology (SST) Division, I contribute to the lab's mission to develop solutions to some of the nation's most pressing problems related to detecting the production, testing, trafficking, and use of weapons of mass destruction.  This internship has given me a unique experience with practical training in nuclear nonproliferation analysis, computer science and geospatial applications relevant to PNNL's longstanding national security mission.  Located in Richland, Washington, PNNL is one of ten Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories managed by DOE's Office of Science and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security, National Nuclear Security Administration and other government agencies, universities and industry organizations.

Interning with SST has been a challenging yet rewarding experience.  The same motivations that led me to enroll in the Government Analytics (GA) program at Johns Hopkins, such as my desire to learn new technical skills and belief in life-long learning, also led me to PNNL.  I originally learned of the opportunity via an email forwarded in early June.  Though the onboarding process took a while (as all things tend to in government), I am now here working at PNNL as a direct result of the successful outreach efforts of this lab.  One of the main reasons I decided to pursue an MS in Government Analytics was to enhance my practical skillset and thereby stand out in the eyes of employers such as PNNL.  Through my experiences in the GA program and at PNNL, I have been able to develop expertise in analytical methods that are increasingly relied upon by government agencies, non-profit organizations and the private sector – facility with GIS, Python, R, Stata, and other data analysis tools that are in high demand.   Further, my concentration in Geospatial Analysis in the GA program has allowed me to customize the degree based on my interests.  The foundation I have built in spatial data modeling, analysis and visualization has driven the types of assignments I have received thus far in my internship.

At PNNL, I have had the chance to research prevailing nuclear nonproliferation trends across international and regional contexts; perform geospatial tasks and activities with limited oversight among a diverse and multi-disciplinary staff; and analyze the applications of unmanned aerial vehicle/systems (UAV/UAS) with respect to international safeguards and treaty monitoring/verification efforts.  The results of my work are discussed in a forthcoming white paper, Drone on: Advancing the Drone Discourse within the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime.

In addition to working at PNLL, I am also a 2015-2016 eIntern with the Department of State’s Virtual Student Foreign Service working remotely within the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of the Geographer of Global Issues.  My work includes the utilization of GIS to develop and maintain geospatial data catalogs; evaluation of the accuracy and quality of spatial data in OpenStreetMap for the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU); and, in the future, will include the production of written and graphic reports, presentations, and map content for distribution via social media.


Kristen Soltis Anderson Discusses the Millennial Generation and Voting

The pollster and political consultant, Kristen Soltis Anderson addressed students last night at the Symposium, sharing insights from her recent book,  The Selfie Vote:  Where Millennials Are Leading America (And How Republicans Can Keep Up).   Anderson addressed the question of why the millennial generation has been leaving the Republican Party in droves since the election of 2008, and why the Republican Party should care about it.  Republicans often make the mistake thinking that young voters don’t matter, but in the 2012 election, they comprised 19 percent of the vote.  What’s more, Anderson pointed out, is that political attitudes are sticky – chances are that the political identification a voter adopts early often lasts for a lifetime.  Losing the millennials today, Anderson noted, could have long lasting consequences for elections through 2076.   Anderson has been wrestling with this question of the youth vote since her days as a student in the MA in Government program (from which she graduated in 2009) and it served as the topic of her thesis and subsequent research and career focus.  

Anderson shared observations and insights from the many focus groups she has conducted throughout the country.  There are misperceptions about the millenials – that they are self-absorbed (hence “selfie”) and monolithically liberal.   Yet Anderson’s work shows that this is not completely accurate – millennials are very engaged in their communities, in the families, and actually live a more  “small-c” conservative lifestyle than people think insofar as they are less likely to get pregnant, drink, and smoke (with the exception of marijuana).   Anderson urged that Republicans need to better engage millennials through social media and other technologies.  Anderson recounted how past elections were defined by different types of social media:   The 2006 was the “YouTube Election” with George Allen being knocked out of the Virginia Senate race because of a youtube video showing him use a racial slur; 2008 was the Facebook Election, with Obama utilizing it to reach young people in primary states; 2010 the Twitter Election, with the Tea Party utilizing it to mobilizing congressional voter turnout; and 2012 Big Data Election.  What will the election of 2016 be?  Anderson predicts it will be the Mobile Election, dominated by newer social media sites like Snapchat, which resonate with millennials.    Republicans need to get out in front of these technologies and display how their ideology (such as free market innovations like Uber) has real-world applications that will make life better for the millennial generation and address their aspirations.


Lee Drutman discusses Corporate Lobbying at JHU Center for Advanced Governmental Studies

JHU faculty member and Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, Lee Drutman, shared insights from his recent book, The Business of America is Lobbying: How Corporations Became Politicized and Politics Became More Corporate at a brown bag lunch forum at the JHU Center for Advanced Governmental Studies. 

Drutman discussed the history and consequences of the growth in corporate lobbying and concluded by offering some solutions to the problem.  Corporate lobbying grew from the 1950s from being sparse and reactionary to becoming pro-active and ubiquitous.  How did this happen? 

Drutman points to the 1965 publication of the Ralph Nader book, Unsafe at Any Speed, as a key moment that led to the growth of corporate lobbying.  Shortly after the publication of Nader’s book, the US Department of Transportation was created.  At that time, the General Motors Corporation did not even have a lobbyist in DC.  That was soon to change to the point that today corporate lobbying is an over $3 billion a year enterprise. 

Drutman discussed the consequences in the growth of lobbying and why there does not seem to be any end to it. One of the solutions he discussed was to build up policy capacity of Congress by increasing staff and their salaries.