McCormack Speaks

December 3, 2020
by jackli001
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Building Science Back Better: Renewing Trust in Science in Federal Agencies

By David W. Cash, Dean, John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies University of Massachusetts Boston; +1-617-794-9431; david.cash@umb.edu

Healthcare Worker

The Biden-Harris Administration will need to re-construct the scientific infrastructure of federal agencies whose staff, processes and institutions are severely diminished. In order to address the four priorities of COVID-19, racial equity, climate change, and economic recovery, building science back better will be critical.

Traditional approaches applying science in policy making arenas focus on the credibility of the science – how well the science meets standards of technical adequacy driven by peer review and processes that evaluate methodology and evidence. Credibility is necessary, but not always sufficient in building trust in science, especially when working in areas that are characterized by political conflict. Two other characteristics of science may be equally important: salience and legitimacy. Salience is the relevance of the science to decision makers or stakeholders – is science asking the questions that matter to them? Legitimacy relates to whether the process of creating knowledge has been transparent, fair, inclusive of divergent views or values, and as unbiased as possible.

Building science back better will certainly mean re-establishing the credibility of government science. But a further focus by federal agencies on creating the right institutions and processes to advance the salience and legitimacy of science will increase the chance that government science will make a difference in solving the major challenges we face. Enhancing the relevance of science and assuring that it is legitimate will require intentional efforts that deliberately bridge the boundary between science and decision making and/or communities. Such mechanisms maintain participatory processes that support communication and translation across the boundary; engage stakeholders early and often in the scoping of analysis; disaggregate data by race, income, gender and other variables in ways that have particular resonance at local levels; and jointly create and own data, tools, maps or models that explore problems and test solutions.

A compelling example is the agricultural extension system in the United States, which, for over a century, has effectively linked agricultural research at land grant colleges to the everyday decisions of farmers. The system of county extension agents connects the concerns, questions, and innovations of farmers to scientists at land grant colleges, and supports iterated two-way communication that enhances credibility, salience, and legitimacy of the science. The result is a relatively high degree of trust between farmers and scientists and the deployment of science and technology that assists farmers at local levels. Through the bridging actions of the county extension office, farmers help scope research, are part of building and using agro-economic models, and become innovators of new technology and practices.

What are the prospects of using this kind of framework in addressing the four policy priorities of the early Biden-Harris Administration? The examples below simplify complex systems, but they highlight the kinds of efforts and organizations that can help build trust in science to solve these challenges.

  • COVID-19: As the COVID crisis hit in early 2020, the disaggregation of data that showed which communities by race were hit the hardest enabled such communities to mobilize, for example, with targeted distribution of PPE. Similarly, as vaccines become available, successful deployment will depend on local adoption, and designing processes so that communities trust that the vaccines will be safe and effective. Linking national systems of vaccine distribution to local trusted organizations (e.g., local community health care centers, houses of worship, etc.) may facilitate the ability for local community members to air concerns (ask the questions that are salient to them), and be part of the process of creating a distribution system that is transparent, accountable, and has local ownership.
  • Racial equity: Social sciences play a large part in understanding inequitable structures and biases in wealth, government, health care, housing, policing, and education. For example, by disaggregating wealth data by income, race, gender, and geography, analysts, decision makers, and communities can see disparities in economic variables. In addition, numerous academic institutions and even the Federal Reserve have launched a variety of different kinds of community-engaged action research programs, linking researchers to communities so that participatory engagement in the scoping and conducting of research establishes long-term trusted relationships with communities to both examine the root causes of inequities and propose, pilot, and implement solutions.
  • Climate change: There is now a long record of global through local systems that link science and decision making through robust organizations and processes that engage decision makers and scientists in iterated participatory networks that enhance trust in science through downscaling climate data and models, running state and local-scale risk assessments, and exploring locally driven policy scenarios. NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program is one such example.  Emerging renewable energy extension programs that piggy-back on the agricultural extension system is another.
  • Economic recovery: One part of economic recovery will be job training and workforce development. These are inherently local concerns driven by local industry, markets, and economic indicators, but are influenced by larger scale forces. As is already in place, federal-state-local integrated workforce development programs can be resourced to assure that solutions fit local conditions and are informed both by federal statistics and economic data from trusted local sources. The result of the use of such trusted data can drive growth in sectors that will generate long-term prosperity.

As government science is reconstituted in the Biden-Harris Administration, there is a window of opportunity to re-build better by focusing on all three of these attributes of science – credibility, salience and legitimacy.  Such focus will increase the chance that science will drive better decision making, especially in a complex and politically charged world.

 

For more reading:

Matson, P., W.C. Clark, and K. Andersson (2016) Pursuing Sustainability: A Guide to the Science and Practice, Princeton University Press.

Cash, D.W., W.C. Clark, F. Alcock, N.M. Dickson, N. Eckley, D. Guston, J. Jäger and R. Mitchell (2003). Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100: 8086-8091.

May 15, 2019
by saadiaahmad001
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Massachusetts Expands Protections and Rights for LGBT Groups

by Michael DiFranza, MPA student

Massachusetts has long been ahead of the curve in providing rights and protections for LGBT people compared to other states. In 2004 Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage.[1] Recently several new laws have been passed to extend protections in the state.

This April, MA legislature banned ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy for youths. Conversion therapy is a practice that is aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This practice is widely rejected by most major medical and psychological institutions like the World Health Organization, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association. Conversion therapy is dangerous, because it can be a psychologically traumatic experience for LGBT youths. This bill passed with bipartisan support and went into effect on April 8th.[2]

On April 25th the MA legislature passed a bill that legally allows individuals to change the sex designation on their birth record. Individuals are not limited to “female” and “male,” but are also given the option to designate as “X,” which would indicate that they do not identify as the other two options; they are another gender, or an undesignated gender. There is no requirement for health-care and medical-related documentation or a proof of name change.

Some states, such as Alabama, allow you to change your sex designation on your birth certificate only after you under-go sex reassignment surgery and legally change your name.[3] The individual, or their guardian, if they are a minor, must provide an affidavit under the penalty of perjury that the person is changing their designation to conform to their gender identity, and not for fraudulent reasons.

Driver’s licenses, learners permits, ID cards, and liquor licenses will now reflect changes in sex designation, with the “X” designation now an option on these forms of ID in Massachusetts. Plans are being put in place to change all forms of documentation issued by state agencies to include the “X” designation for gender. This bill will take effect on January 1, 2020.[4]

In 2016, MA Ballot Question 3 upheld civil rights protections for LGBT people. This prohibited discrimination based on gender identity.[5] Massachusetts had to provide these protections because currently federal civil rights laws do not. Most of the states in the U.S. do not extend protections to transgendered people. This means in large portions of the U.S. someone can be fired from a job, evicted from a home, or refused service at a business based on their gender identity.[6] Extending protections at the federal level will be critical in preventing discrimination against LGBT groups in the future. Until then state level protections must become more comprehensive in order to compensate for the lack of federal protections.

[1] “HILLARY GOODRIDGE & Others vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH & Another.” GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, 440 Mass. 309, 2003, masscases.com/cases/sjc/440/440mass309.html.

[2] Johnson, Chris. “Massachusetts Becomes 16th State to Ban ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy for Youth.” Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights, 8 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonblade.com/2019/04/08/massachusetts-becomes-16th-state-to-ban-ex-gay-therapy-for-youth/.

[3] Ala. Code § 22-9A-19(d) (2004).

[4] “Bill S.2213 An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification.” Bill S.2213, 25 Apr. 2019, malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2213.

[5] Galivn, William Francis. “2018 Information For Voters.” Elections: 2018 Information For Voters, 2019, www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele18/ballot_questions_18/quest_3.htm.

[6] Human Rights Campaign. “State Maps of Laws and Policies.” Human Rights Campaign, 2019, www.hrc.org/state-maps

March 29, 2019
by saadiaahmad001
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New Leadership Lends New Opportunities for Massachusetts Children

by Michelle Haimowitz, MPA student

While some public policy investments may eventually pay for themselves in savings, few public investments provide as much of a return on investment as early childhood education. For every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education, local economies receive at least $7 in return.[1] Returns are not only found in educational achievements such as high school graduation rates, but in higher lifetime earnings, reduced teen pregnancy rates, and reduced incarceration rates among graduates of high-quality early learning programs.

Unfortunately, early childhood education does not receive as much public investment as the research shows it should. High-quality early education is dependent on the workforce and teachers in the classroom. However, lack of public investment leads to extreme rates of educator turnover – roughly 30% each year – which impedes children’s ability to learn in a consistent environment.[2] Early childhood educators are paid just a fraction of what their peers in public elementary classrooms make, despite often having the same degrees and credentials. In fact, 59 percent of all Head Start teachers in Massachusetts hold bachelor’s degrees.[3] Yet the average child care worker in Massachusetts makes less than $30,000 per year, less than half of what the average kindergarten teacher makes.[4] This doesn’t just put our children at a disadvantage, but costs the state enormously – nearly 40% of the early childhood workforce in Massachusetts receives some form of public assistance, at a cost of $35.6 million to the state and federal governments.[5]

This crisis is not impossible to solve; the answer is increased state investment in the early childhood education workforce. This year, Massachusetts is in a unique position with new State House leaders at the head of their respective chamber’s Committee on Ways and Means, the key budget writing committee. Representative Aaron Michlewitz and Senator Michael Rodrigues are both in the position to write their first budget, setting priorities for their tenures in these positions and guiding the legislature in determining state investments. Both Senator Rodrigues and Representative Michlewitz now have the opportunity to write a budget that invests in the field and the workforce that we know shows long-term returns to our state – early childhood education. These State House leaders can choose to spend state resources on early educators now rather than spending later in public assistance for those working with our youngest learners. If significant investments are made in early education quality and access – including investments to the Early Educator Rate Reserve, the Head Start State Supplemental Grant, and the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative – Massachusetts’ children, educators, and economy will be strengthened.

[1] First Five Years Fund. (n.d.). Quality Early Childhood Education: Why It Matters. Retrieved from https://www.ffyf.org/why-it-matters/

[2] Douglass, A. (2017, July 18). Massachusetts early education programs are in peril. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/07/18/massachusetts-early-education-programs-are-peril/rlyXHYwkYEKJz66kOtOi5J/story.html?event=event12

[3] Massachusetts Head Start Association. (2018). 2018 Annual Report. Retrieved from https://wwwmassheadstart.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/mhsa-anual-report-2018-online-version.pdf

[4] United States Department of Education. (2016, June 14). Fact Sheet: Troubling Pay Gap for Early Childhood Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-troubling-pay-gap-early-childhood-teachers

[5] Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley. (2016). Early Childhood Workforce Index 2016: Massachusetts. Retrieved from http://cscce.berkeley.edu/files/2016/Index-2016-Massachusetts.pdf

March 27, 2019
by saadiaahmad001
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UMass Boston First Africa Day a Major Success, Draws Over 100 Attendees

by Hannah Brown, PhD Candidate in Global Governance and Human Security

The Africa Scholars Forum at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston launched its first Africa day with the theme Pan Africa Rising on February 27th, 2019.

The event featured Keynote speakers, discussion panels, graduate students’ flash talks, African Marketplace, luncheon and a gala night reception with Afrobeat DJ and African food from Suya Joint, Cesaria, and Ashur restaurants. The opening address by Dr. Edozie and Keynote addresses by Professor Robinson and Zadi Zokou explored African liberation, decolonization, and connecting African immigrants and African Americans respectively. Panel discussions were on African perspectives on democracy, security and global governance and Beyond neoliberalism: the prospects for a Pan African economics.

Africa Day was a premier event that hopes to establish an interdisciplinary university-wide African studies presence in the University of Massachusetts, Boston (UMass Boston). The event aligns with the goals of the Africa Scholars Forum, which include developing an undergraduate minor and graduate certificate in African studies. The forum also seeks to engage students at UMass Boston with Africa programming missions and create undergraduate student research initiatives on African study. Moreover, it will establish a platform for deepened Africa research study for graduate students and promote existing and new faculty and student exchanges with African studies programs and universities in Africa, especially for study abroad programs and community research.

March 18, 2019
by saadiaahmad001
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Public Policy PhD Candidate Sean Mossey Receives Honorable Mention for Digital Governance Junior Scholar Award

Sean Mossey, Public Policy PhD Candidate in the McCormack Graduate School, received an Honorable Mention for the Digital Governance Junior Scholar Award. This award was given by the Section on Science and Technology in Government (SSTIG) of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). The award committee found that he has an excellent research agenda and shows evidence for a promising publication and research potential that will likely result in a considerable theoretical and practical contribution to the field.

Additionally, he has recently co-published several articles in two prestigious academic journals. One explores harnessing the power of mobile technology to bridge the digital divides and is published in the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, and the other provides a chronological timeline on e-government policy and legislation, published in the Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance. Both articles were co-published with Dr. Aroon Manoharan, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs.

Sean Mossey is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and was the student representative for the Northeastern Conference on Public Administration (NECOPA) from 2015 to 2018. He graduated with a B.A. and MPA from the University of New Hampshire in history and public administration, respectively. He has worked as a research and teaching assistant for five years on projects in the realms of e-governance, m-governance, education policy, and organizational development. Mossey’s research interests and competencies also include information security policy, quantitative analysis, global comparative policy, and organizational theory. He currently works as a Human Resources Data Analyst for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with the Department of Transportation.

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