Welcome to Reflections

I’m excited to welcome y’all to Reflections!

Before I explain, you need to first notice that our website is growing. You can learn more about our projects in, well, in our new Projects section! There you’ll find quick summaries of research, with links to materials if you want to dive deeper (e.g. pre-analysis plans, code, data, full papers, links to events, and so forth). We’re just getting started here, so stay tuned over the coming weeks as we continue to add more projects and materials.

So what is Reflections?

Reflections is The Policy Lab’s newest watering hole for telling behind-the-scenes stories about those projects and for reflecting on what is being learned from our experiences. Be warned—or rather enticed!—that this is meant to be a platform for conversation, for exploration, for musing, for baking-but-not-always-fully-baked ideas. You’ll hear directly from Lab members and affiliates, as they grapple with how to apply their research for public impact and share insights about what’s working, and what’s not working. We may even pitch a wild idea or two or ten.

For example, together with our friends at the United Way, we’ve been analyzing 211 call center data in an attempt to identify patterns in the requests for help and, in turn, better triage or even preempt resource needs. We built a 211 dashboard and, in Reflections, one of our data scientists, Paul Xu, explains the technical weeds of how we built it.

In another set of Reflections, Kelly Crawley looks back on events from The Policy Lab over the past months, recapping highlights and sharing links to recordings.

And we have more, on all sorts of topics—and using all sorts of methods—coming down the pipeline. Drafts are circulating on everything from why most project ideas fail to happen, to concept drift in machine learning models, to insights from redesigning a garbage can, to what it takes to field an experiment across many cities.

It’s gonna be a fun ride together.

Subscribe to our listserv, if you haven’t already, so you don’t miss a Reflection. And if you ever have an idea for a Reflection, or you want to poke us to write on a topic, drop us a line any time at

Welcome again, to Reflections!

How to cite this Reflection: Yokum D. (2021, February 25). Welcome to Reflections. The Policy Lab.

More Reflections

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ZenTables: Stress-free table publishing in Google Docs with Python

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The Making of a Dashboard - Part 4: Refinements and Stakeholder Feedback

In the previous post we discussed general design patterns that put Vue and d3 together. This post will focus on how we improved the UI/UX design of the first prototype (shown above) according to the…

The Making of a Dashboard - Part 3: Rendering the Visualizations

In this post, we will cover the details in creating the data visualizations used in the United Way Rhode Island 211 Dashboard to reveal patterns in 211 calls. The previous post described in detail the…

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