What is the Texas Behavioral Science and Policy Institute (TxBSPI)?
It is an R&D engine to discover and disseminate solutions that reduce the barriers to economic mobility and well-being for millions of people around the world—starting with Texas.
Many of its flagship projects focus on K-12 and post-secondary education and workforce development. These problem spaces are critical for the future of the labor market and for narrowing disparities in the intergenerational transmission of inequality. The institute also has a large and growing focus on stress, physical and mental health; political participation and polarization; crime, policing, and criminal justice; diversity and inclusion; and more.
The institute’s mission is to dramatically shorten the time between a new discovery in these problem spaces and the attainment of knowledge about how to use the discovery reliably, at scale, in diverse contexts, to promote equality. To do so, the TXBSPI uses a three-step process:
- Discovery: Foundational research to identify promising programs and policies;
- Evaluation: Scaled-up field experiments to provide definitive answers to policy questions;
- Dissemination: Sharing datasets, findings, and products with researchers, policymakers, and the public.
Methodology and organization
Researchers in the institute apply a unique, hybrid methodology that spans the fields of behavioral science (e.g. social, cognitive, and developmental psychology), sociology, statistics, and data science. We combine:
- intensive qualitative methods (e.g., ethnographies, interviews, focus groups),
- content analysis (e.g., coding of curriculum artifacts or transcripts),
- user-centered design (e.g., prototyping and piloting),
- rapid A/B testing (e.g., micro-RCTs),
- small and mid-scale laboratory and field experiments,
- longitudinal and secondary data analysis (e.g., course-taking and completion records),
- machine-learning and Bayesian analysis;
- natural language processing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) language models.
- definitive, scaled-up RCTs (e.g., trials in random samples).
The TxBSPI houses an infrastructure of professional research staff, including scientific and project directors, data scientists, behavioral designers, and research coordinators. TxBSPI also has a strong mentoring focus, and currently supports a diverse group of undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate, and post-doctoral trainees.
Concretely, TxBSPI supports investigators at each stage of the research process: obtaining funding, locating a research partner, filing an IRB, piloting and prototyping, collecting and documenting data, conducting and reporting analyses, and disseminating findings into policy and practice.
A key goal for TxBSPI is to assist investigators to carry out higher-quality early-stage research, so that they can attract the resources needed for ambitious and definitive large-scale studies. Further, TxBSPI supports investigators after large-scale studies have been launched, by curating and disseminating datasets (e.g. on ICPSR) and supporting junior or external scholars as they access and analyze the data.