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Mayor Bowser Launches Lab @ DC

Thursday, July 20, 2017
Announces $3.2 Million Grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser formally launched The Lab @ DC, a first-of-its-kind in-house data science team in the DC Government. The Lab, which will use data and evidence to inform decision making across DC Government, is located within the City Administrator’s Office of Performance Management and operates under the leadership of Director David Yokum, a long-time advocate of data scientists in government.

“By standing up a network of scientists inside DC 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’s core functions include:

  • designing policy and program interventions that are tailored to Washington, DC and based on theory and evidence from academic and industrial research;
  • conducting high-quality evaluations, including randomized evaluations and rapid, iterative experimentation, to learn how well programs and policies work and how they can be improved; and
  • fostering a scientific community of practice by engaging and collaborating with experts and stakeholders across agencies, universities, and community groups.

The Lab’s team comes from diverse professional backgrounds, including academia, public sector, private sector, and military, and areas of expertise.

“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 City Administrator Rashad 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 DC context.”

The Lab is already working on the most rigorous randomized controlled trial study of how body-worn cameras impact police interactions with residents and court proceedings. Other projects housed at The Lab include the design and testing of a flexible rent subsidy program and an evaluation of whether a nurse triage line can safely divert 911 callers away from non-emergency ambulance rides and achieve healthier outcomes and be more cost efficient. Across DC Government, agency directors and senior leaders are able to refer projects to The Lab for consideration.

The Lab is funded by a $3.2 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), a national non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of individuals by strengthening social, governmental, and economic systems. The Foundation’s grant will fund The Lab through December 2018.

“We are pleased to support The Lab @ DC,” said LJAF’s Senior Vice President of Results-Driven Government Josh McGee. “It will help local leaders analyze policies and develop solutions that are intended to address some of the biggest issues facing the District. The Lab represents a new approach to problem solving and can serve as a model for cities and states across the country.”

For more information about The Lab @ DC visit TheLab.dc.gov.