The Rady School of Management was one of several schools recently selected by the Behavioral Science & Policy Association (BSPA) to host a “Behavioral Science and Policy Series” to identify potential ways to apply behavioral science to federal public policy. David Schkade, who holds the Jerome Katzin Chair at the Rady School, serves on the BSPA’s Executive Committee and helped bring the series to the school. Through the BSPA series, working groups of researchers will deliver white papers that will propose how behavioral sciences can be applied, tested and implemented into federal programs.
“BSPA is a global hub where behavioral scientists, policy makers and other practitioners interact via conferences, workshops, briefings and our membership pool,” Schkade said. “We’re also commissioning spotlight groups, which are like small conferences that will produce a package of coordinated, thematic, papers under topics like early childhood education, retirement and medical decisions where we will combine them with policy interest. The Rady School will be hosting one of these spotlight series.”
The launch of the BSPA series was announced in conjunction with two other actions the federal government is taking to integrate behavioral science into its programs. The federal agency charged with studying the impact of using behavioral science on federal programs, the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, released its findings that applying behavioral science research to government programs made them easier to access and more user-friendly. In conjunction with the team’s report, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order that directed federal agencies to incorporate insights derived from behavioral science to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of federal programs.
Prior to the Executive Order, the BSPA hosted a policy summit and conference that brought together the luminaries of behavioral science research and top policy makers, including UN Ambassador Samantha Power and the Social and Behavioral Sciences team.
“The purpose, the niche for BSPA is to be a catalyst and a conduit,” said Schkade. “We’re not producing new research or funding new research. What we’re doing is making it easy for social scientists and policy makers to find each other and to do things that are relevant and impactful.”
Although the topic of the BSPA’s Behavioral Science and Policy Series at the Rady School has yet to be determined, Schkade’s own research has demonstrated the powerful impact behavioral science can have on guiding public policy.
“Some work that I’ve done in the past was on how juries make decisions and that work actually influenced a Supreme Court decision, Schkade said. “And I’ve done work on organ donation, specifically on getting people to sign up to be organ donors.”
Schkade’s organ donation work found that potential organ donors get screened for diseases, but were being over screened and thus too many eligible people were being rejected.
“They were basically screening people for HIV by asking lifestyle questions, which ended up rejecting about five percent of potential donors,” Schkade said. “We calculated the actual rate of HIV organs that had been transplanted was 1 in 66,000. So it was about 1,100 people a year were not getting donations because of this screening. To their credit, the doctors at the Centers for Disease Control loosened the donation restrictions because of our findings. We estimate that around 400 people a year get transplants who wouldn’t have with the previous screening. These are kinds of things that that have been of interest to me for a very long time. That’s why I’m involved.”
Melinda Battenberg is the Public Relations Representative at the Rady School of Management. In her free time Battenberg enjoys cooking, craft beer and spending time with her family.