A discussion with OES fellows
The OES team had the pleasure of bringing on seven new fellows in 2020 from various disciplines - including economics, public policy, marketing, and psychology - to support agencies build and use evidence. Our fellows provide rigorous academic expertise and ensure our projects meet the highest standards of evaluation rigor and research integrity.
As we approach nearly nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic here in Washington D.C., we recognize that this is our first cohort of fellows working with the team entirely remotely. We asked a few of our fellows to reflect on their experiences working with the team this year.
Why did you join OES?
- Erin: The nationwide reach of OES projects has tremendous potential. In particular, building on the foundation laid by the 2018 Evidence Act to shape and deliver on learning agendas across many different government agencies is a unique and momentous opportunity.
- Heather: I’ve been interested for a long time in doing research that’s relevant to public policy, but that can be pretty abstract when you’re sitting in a university. The OES Fellowship seemed like a great way to do that kind of work hands-on, and I’m learning a lot that will shape the research and teaching I do after I go back to my university job. Also, after 8 years at the same institution working on a specific set of projects, it’s been really energizing to dive into a fresh set of challenges with a new batch of collaborators.
- Mattie: As an academic in the behavioral sciences, I saw this fellowship as an ideal opportunity to execute rigorous evaluations at scale in settings where the findings are immediately relevant and impactful.
- Jess: As a designer, I was very excited to join an interdisciplinary team where I would learn new approaches that I can bring to problem solving and design. I’m dedicated to working on meaningful improvements to government programs and services. OES’ position and reach to partner with various agencies creates unique opportunities to do that.
- Miles: As an academic, it’s unfortunately quite easy to feel alienated from the tangible policy questions that governments face on a regular basis. So, when the opportunity came along to join a diverse team of social scientists whose work has direct policy applications, and immediate public impact, I lept at the chance.
What OES project are you most excited about?
- Heather: I’m really excited about work we are doing on equity in allocating federal funds (e.g., during the COVID pandemic). I’m also enthusiastic about possible work on financial education (which was an interest of mine before joining OES) and on post-prison programs. I’m trying not to get TOO excited about any individual project, since a lot of projects are still in development.
- Mattie: Several! I’ve enjoyed scoping out new opportunities as well as building on existing OES projects in the health policy space, for instance on evaluations around vaccination uptake and off-guideline prescribing. Recently, I’ve also become interested in learning more about how decision makers in government interpret and utilize evidence, and interventions that might improve this process.
What does a usual week look like for a fellow?
- Elizabeth: Instead of writing lectures and grading, I’m putting together slide decks for exciting new interventions that have the potential to improve public experiences of government. Similar to my professor duties, I am engaging in project management, including meeting with public servants across the federal government, data analysis, and writing for a variety of audiences including the public, policymakers, and academics.
- Miles: A typical week can consist of a wide range of activities, from consulting on project design, contributing to team guidance on analysis best practices, or having the opportunity to learn from experts in their fields as they discuss their latest research and insights.
- Erin: The weekly lab meetings are an energizing opportunity to dive deep into projects across the OES portfolio- providing an opportunity to not only think deeply about technical aspects of projects, but pushing fellows to apply an interdisciplinary and practical lens to all our work.
What’s been most surprising about your fellowship thus far?
- Heather: The team structure at OES is very flat and several people do things in parallel on every project. The work is truly collaborative, on a big scale. Most reports don’t really have an author’s name; it’s work done by the group, not for the credit of an individual.
- Jess: There’s something really interesting about how OES leverages a team made up of so many visiting members. It’s certainly unlike any team I have been on. I think it’s managed very well, giving everyone a sense of inclusion and empowerment to do their best work.
- Elizabeth: I have been surprised with how well the leadership has managed remote fellowships and fostered a sense of community for all members of the team. Despite being in a global pandemic, our team connects regularly in a virtual format that leaves everyone feeling supported and valued.
- Erin: The commitment to transparency and accountability on all projects is remarkable; it’s very exciting to be part of a team that is pushing for non-partisan, disciplined institutional practice within government agencies.
- Miles: Joining a new team, and feeling truly plugged in, is no easy thing to foster in person, much less remotely. For this reason, my happiest surprise at becoming an associate fellow with OES is how little time it took to feel connected to the team. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with.
For more information on our fellowships, visit our Opportunities page.