The North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) Strategic Partnerships team is facilitating research to improve public policy and program operations for the benefit of North Carolinians. They are assembling an interdisciplinary network of partners, who collectively can provide methodological expertise related to design, data analytics, and field experimentation, as well as domain knowledge related to topics. Funding may be available, based on fit and need. There are opportunities for entry-level to highly experienced scientists. The Strategic Partnerships team is looking for pragmatically-oriented scientists who appreciate that applied research often requires pivoting focus and methods based on an evolving understanding of the problem and associated constraints. For each of the below, the team is seeking individuals with project management experience, especially demonstrated success in a complicated organizational setting. The immense challenges that COVID-19 is causing across sectors makes this work as critical and timely as ever, highlighting opportunities for and the importance of contributions from research partners.
- How can prisons ensure that changes in staffing needs are calculated when the Legislature enacts laws that increase or decrease the prison population? This request seeks to develop a methodology to project staffing needs in relation to the increased (or decreased) prison capacity projections, both for annual population projections and for criminal sentencing laws. Skill sets needed include expertise in business and human resources systems analysis, knowledge of the unique aspects of prison facilities’ environment and settings, and experience with legislative fiscal research.
- How can North Carolina enhance the design of its re-entry policies and programming? North Carolina has government, nonprofit, and business community resources, but how should those resources be used? Skill sets needed include ethnography to describe current processes across the state prison and re-entry systems; software and data engineering to stitch together a patchwork of IT systems containing prisoner information; data science for analyzing those data; social scientists to design and analyze randomized field experiments; and experts on the topic of re-entry.
- How can North Carolina improve voluntary compliance with tax filing and payment? The North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) has a variety of resources for education and outreach to make it easier for taxpayers to pay their fair share, but how can those resources be best enhanced? Anticipated projects will involve: 1) design and A/B testing work to optimize the catalog of communications used by NCDOR; and 2) determining what the economic and other impacts would be of a seemingly small (~1-2%) incremental increase in voluntary compliance. Skill sets needed include behavioral science and graphic design to create new communications; social scientists to design and analyze randomized field experiences; and experts on the topic of the tax gap, voluntary and involuntary compliance and tax collection specifically.
- How can North Carolina increase the number of young adults living in or relocating to rural communities that earn close to the state average income? Among the trends that could be analyzed are commuting to a job in an urban county, investment in broadband infrastructure and affordability, presence of maternal and early childhood health care, innovations in education, proximity to outdoor recreation, and ease of acceptance in the community fabric. Skill sets needed are likely to include sociology, economics, infrastructure planning, and investment strategy.
- How can North Carolina best match job-seekers with opportunities in state government? This project seeks to address the talent pipeline gap by first, determining the ideal interconnections between government position postings and colleges/universities and, second, building an online system that connects those in need of the talent with those with the talent to offer. Skill sets needed (likely from multiple individuals) include lean/UX design for mapping the ideal user experience; full-stack and software engineer for building the online platform and requisite API pipelines; survey methodology for soliciting employer and job-seeker information; and experts on the topic of human resources, particularly in university and government settings.
- How can North Carolina best manage and maximize the benefits of its environmental assets? The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has identified projects of interest that include questions such as: how to predict flooding in an effort to save life and property; how to preserve and introduce pollinator-friendly species; how to mitigate bacterial contamination in the aquaculture industry; how to value the seafood industry; how to clean waterways; how to incentivize wider adoption of home energy weatherization; how to prepare for rising sea levels. Skill sets needed (likely from multiple individuals) include digital and aerial photography and geographic information systems (GIS) for mapping assets across the state; machine-learning and high-performance computing for modeling weather and climate patterns; environmental sampling; econometrics and policy experts for modeling financial impact and tax incentive schemes; water quality monitoring; and experts on environmental management.
- How can North Carolina best use Medicaid dollars to support individuals with intellectual, developmental, and substance use disabilities? The goal of this project is to provide empirical assessments of existing programs and to design a learning agenda of analytic and field work to fill knowledge gaps moving forward. Learning goals are focused on increasing the number of contracts that are completed for service-based pilots while also ensuring that the process involves a diverse set of provider organizations. Skill sets needed include data engineering to curate and manage a vast quantity of health-related administrative data; data science for analyzing those data; social and medical scientists to review and assess existing programs and contracts; and experts on administrative data and programming in the HHS policy context.
- The North Carolina Department of Information Technology Broadband Infrastructure Office’s vision is for all North Carolinians to have access to affordable, high-speed broadband, anywhere at any time. The Office seeks a partner to assist in conducting an economic impact study of broadband access and adoption in North Carolina. The study should build upon existing research such as that of the Whitacre, Gallardo, and Strover 2014 study, “Does rural broadband impact jobs and income? Evidence from spatial and first-differenced regressed.” Skill sets needed include economic analytics to monitor the return on investment of broadband, and computer science and procurement expertise to advise on how to best implement broadband technologies.
About the opportunity
Engagements on all the above will begin as soon as individuals with the needed skills are identified and available. Most opportunities have a minimum commitment of four months and 10 hours per week. Roles with substantially more engagement will also be needed, and along longer time horizons.
The aim of the Strategic Partnerships team is to enrich life for all North Carolinians. To that end, they are committed to open science best practices, including sharing results and distributing of materials needed to replicate. This includes academic and practitioner publishing, as well as compelling storytelling through interactive online reports, community forums, podcasts and radio, and beyond as best fit for the relevant audiences.
North Carolina state government serves a population of over 10 million residents across policy and programmatic domains. The Office of State Management and Budge (OBSM) is in the heart of Raleigh, next to the Capitol, the Legislature, and state departments and agencies. Students would be working closely with state agency officials and the Strategic Partnerships team including Jenni Owen, Director of Strategic Partnerships, and David Yokum, Senior Advisor.
Submit a resume and statement to email@example.com. In the statement include how your skill set and interests align with the mission and projects described above. Please note that the list of projects will change as opportunities and needs change.