Policy Lab Resources

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 interest. Faculty 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.”[1] 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.[2]
  • 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.

[1] http://doresearch.stanford.edu/policies/research-policy-handbook/conduct-research/openness-research

[2] Presumptively, they would be published under a Creative Commons attribution-only license.

Law and Public Policy 1

SLS Guide to Courses in Public Policy and Social Problem Solving

Are you interested in a law and policy career solving social problems? This handy guide will help you navigate the many relevant courses within and outside the law school.

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Skills Training

The Policy Lab teaches the skills necessary to research and communicate complex policy assessments to elite decision makers and policy makers as well as lay audiences. Skills workshops guide students through empirical design techniques and the communications skills needed to translate complex analysis into written, oral, and digital modes of assessment, action, and persuasion.

Policy analysis workshops introduce research design ranging from case studies to experiments to statistical analysis.

Writing and communications workshops teach both empirical and persuasive styles and genres, including project proposals, position papers, briefing books, and white papers, as well as the iconic short memo. With attention to the ethics of persuasion, students learn how competing constituencies frame and communicate key ideas and values.

Data visualization workshops feature graphic design techniques for complex data. Digital workshops demonstrate how to leverage online and digital technologies on behalf of law and policy.

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Master Skills Classes for Future Change-Makers

For students enrolled in the Law and Policy Lab — and for those interested in achieving social change at scale — SLS offers an array of master classes that hone the empirical skills required for policy analysis. Among these classes, the Elements of Policy Analysis (Law 7846), teaches you how to hypothesize, organize, test, and evaluate policy issues, and introduces design thinking, stakeholder analysis, implementation strategies, cost-benefit analysis, statistical techniques, and effective policy writing and communications.

A variety of other skills classes offer a strong empirical complement to traditional legal advocacy. These classes will help you tackle provocative problems and cases — learning to make decisions in conditions of uncertainty and to influence behavior through incentives, penalties, and “nudges,” as well as regulatory reform. These are some of the skills you’ll rely on as you navigate your career in law and policy.

Elements of Policy Analysis
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Students in Class

SLS Policy Lab Summer Job Opportunities

Each summer, our policy labs hire a few law interns in positions that are similar to legal internships focused on legal research and writing. Interns work with real policy clients on issues connected to regular policy labs. These positions can be funded through the Levin Center’s summer public interest funding program. Postings for summer positions usually occur in May.