Welcome to the Policy Lab at the University of Zurich. The Policy Lab is a unique one-year course introducing BA-finalists in Political Science to the experimental and quasi-experimental study of policy reform and innovation, empowering students to design, conduct, and analyse their own policy experiments. The 28-weeks seminar is taught over the course of two semesters by Dr. Florian Foos as a combination of lectures, classroom discussions, research design workshops, and applied data analysis. At the end of the course students produce an original research paper addressing a causal question in the world of policy-making through thorough research design, and based on their own data collection.
The course equips students with invaluable skills in causal inference, project-management, and data analysis. While addressing different substantive topics, all student projects have in common that they attempt to identify causal effects through design-based approaches, ranging from randomized field experiments to regression discontinuity, instrumental variable, and difference-in-differences designs.
In 2014/2015 projects conducted by BA students included the effects of the school entry age on educational success in Switzerland (using an instrumental variable approach, and a unique dataset provided by a Cantonal educational authority with more than 35,000 individual observations), a randomized field experiment embedded in a panel study of Socialist party activists testing the effects of phone calls on campaign activism, and a randomized field experiment conducted in collaboration with a Swiss High School testing the effects of providing high school students with youth-specific information on participation in a referendum.
The Policy Lab attempts to connect different cohorts of students who have been trained in experimental methods, and to build, and strengthen links to IPZ graduates, practitioners, policy makers working in public administration, and in NGOs, in Zurich, Switzerland, and beyond.
Moreover, students who participate in the Policy Lab benefit from guest seminars by some of the most distinguished scholars in experimental methods and public policy including Prof Peter John (UCL) in fall term and Prof Donald P. Green (Columbia University) in spring term 2016.