Kohl awards bring research to broad audience

Projects on public management reform, regulatory review and policy change, the effect of policy on solar-electricity cost, and the intersection of genetics, human behavior, and social policy have received funding from the Herb Kohl Public Service Research Competition at the La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl last year pledged $300,000 annually for five years to support nonpartisan research that informs critical public policy and governance debates and advances evidence-based decision making. Sen. Kohl, a 1956 alumnus of UW–Madison, is a member of the La Follette School’s Board of Visitors.

“One of the key components of these projects is bringing faculty members’ research directly to state and national policymakers as well the general public,” said La Follette School Board of Visitors member Chuck Pruitt, who served on the selection committee. “Funding also benefits students, who will work alongside these highly talented scholars as project assistants.”

The funded projects and lead faculty members are:

Behavioral Insights for Public Management: This project will use large-scale experiments in real public sector settings to study how different management interventions affect the behavior of public officials, and ultimately the performance of public organizations. Don Moynihan, professor of public affairs and director, La Follette School of Public Affairs

Regulatory Review & Policy Change: This project will assess whether the president’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – during its critical regulatory review process – moves the content of legally binding government rules toward greater regulatory stringency or moves rules in a deregulatory direction. It also will bring officials from other states to Wisconsin for discussions on regulatory reform. Susan Webb Yackee, professor of public affairs and political science

How did Solar Become Inexpensive? This project will evaluate six explanations to produce a comprehensive global assessment of solar energy, including the historical evolution, the industry’s full supply chain, the activities of people installing panels on roofs, and the motivations behind adoption behavior. While the work takes a global and historical perspective, the motivation for conducting it is to inform more immediate policy decisions. Greg Nemet, associate professor of public affairs and environmental studies

The Social Genomics Revolution: This project supports public presentations, academic discussions, and other activities in Wisconsin and elsewhere that explore the latest discoveries being made at the scientific frontier where genomics and the social sciences intersect. Jason Fletcher, professor of public affairs

“These projects incorporate the student experience and the broader community into faculty-led projects,” Pruitt said. “They have the potential to change and improve lives not only in Wisconsin but around the world.”

Update May 30, 2017: After receiving his Kohl Research Competition grant, Nemet also received a prestigious Carnegie Foundation fellowship for the same project. To accept the Carnegie fellowship, Nemet must decline the Kohl funding, but he is grateful for the initial support, which provided potential back-up funding for the project and elevated the status of his Carnegie application.