By Stuart Shapiro

One of the greatest pleasures of working with the New Jersey State Policy Lab is being able to see so much of the wonderful work being done across the state to improve policymaking in New Jersey.  We recently were able to enjoy this pleasure as the Policy Lab issued a call for proposals for new projects to fund during the academic year that has now begun.

This is a bit of a change in practice for us.  Previously, we accepted proposals on a rolling basis.  But as we have grown, we decided it would be a fairer process to issue a call from time to time and evaluate projects comparatively, rather than on an ad hoc basis.  It also gives us a chance to voice our priorities for policy research through the decision-making regarding funding.

We issued a call for proposals in the early summer, and we were thrilled with the breadth and quality of the submissions.  We received 28 proposals including ones from all three Rutgers University campuses and four other universities in New Jersey.  They covered a wide array of policy issues, and employed varying research methodologies to evaluate very real problems that innovative policy solutions could address.  We truly wish we could have funded all of them.

In the end, we selected ten projects for funding.  They are as follows.

Dr. Ayse Akincigil at the Rutgers School of Social Work will be looking at the New Jersey Assisted Living Program, a program designed to prevent or delay the institutionalization of low-income senior housing tenants, and how to expand interest in and evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

Kristin Curtis, a senior researcher at Rutgers-Camden will be working to define public transportation priorities in southern New Jersey.

Dr. Miyeon Song, at Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration in Newark, will be researching nursing home quality in New Jersey and how nursing homes respond to government quality standards.

Robyn Ince, also from Rutgers-Newark, will be examining COVID-disconnected college students in Newark and what local government and community responses might help facilitate a return to college for them.

Our third RU-Newark project will be conducted by Dr Marilyn Rubin.  She will be addressing how state agencies across the country incorporate equity into performance management and budgeting, drawing potential lessons for our state.

Finally from RU-Newark, Dr. James Davy will be attempting to answer the question of what should comprise an evidence-based policy portfolio of mental health and addiction programs, services, and strategies for the effective reentry and support of justice-involved individuals in New Jersey.

Dr. Stephen Crystal at the Rutgers Institute for Health will be working on evaluating the success of an important emerging intervention with substantial promise for reducing New Jersey’s opioid overdose epidemic.

Dr. Yao Sun at the New Jersey Institute of Technology will be researching the effectiveness of low-income community solar programs and the involvement of under-resourced community stakeholders in achieving energy justice in New Jersey.

Our last two projects will be done at my home, the Bloustein School for Planning and Public Policy.  Dr. Irina Grafova will be surveying nurses who participated in a new program intended to help them cope with emotional distress and potential burnout.

And last but not least, Dr. Robert Noland will be conducting a detailed analysis of best practices to eliminate pedestrian fatalities across the country and evaluate their applicability to New Jersey.

As you can see, these ten projects address a variety of important issues in New Jersey.  They cover a wide swath of policy fields with health care policy the focus of four projects, and other projects on transportation policy (2), energy policy, housing policy, higher education, and public administration.  We are proud to be helping this important work get off the ground and look forward to sharing more details about the projects in the weeks and months ahead and their findings and recommendations sometime next year.