2017 has been an exciting year for The Policy Lab. We have turned one year old, begun several new research projects and landed some prestigious competitive grants.
The Policy Lab was awarded two prestigious and highly competitive Australian Research Council Discovery grants in 2017. One research project, led by our Director Professor Jenny Lewis, and involving three other lab members, will make innovative use of big data to explore the relationship between political debate and policy decisions. The other project, led by Policy Lab members Leah Ruppanner and Belinda Hewitt, will look at the specific issue of sleep and well-being in working families.
We have also begun two new collaborative experiments exploring the role of expertise and competence in policymaking. One experiment — supported by Melbourne School of Governemnt — seeks to understand gender bias against female politicians by asking whether Australians perceive female politicians as less competent and capable in their jobs. The other experiment asks whether Australians trust scientific experts or governments more when they propose policy reforms.
In 2018, we are also continuing our research project — supported by an Australian and New Zealand School of Government research grant — exploring public sector innovation ‘labs’. New labs and innovation units are springing up both inside and outside government and we are seeking to map these initiatives, understand what they do, and examine whether they are having an impact on policy systems.
Meanwhile, our research coordinator Emma Blomkamp is researching efforts to build human-centred or co-design capability among professionals working in different levels of government in Australia and New Zealand.
Finally, The Policy Lab will be working with the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet in 2018 to evaluate the effects of the ‘States of Change’ program. This is being developed by Nesta UK and Victorian public servants will be the first in the world to be part of this project-based training.