The Policy Design and Evaluation Lab (PDEL) is an international focal point for rigorous empirical research on the interplay of public policy, technology, and economic development.

The mission is to combine advanced social science methodology with the power of information technology to design policies and programs that alleviate poverty; promote health, welfare, and security; and enhance accountability.

Under the directorship of Professors Eli Berman, Gordon Hanson, and Craig McIntosh, PDEL is located in the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) at UC San Diego.

April 22, 2013 Press Release: "UC San Diego Launches Groundbreaking Policy Research Lab"

Mission, Values, and Measures of Success

PDEL shares a vision of multidisciplinary research across UC San Diego's unique collection of intellectual talents in applied social science, information and communication technology, health sciences, and environmental sciences.

The values embraced by PDEL’s affiliated faculty create an environment to:

  • Evaluate social costs and benefits of technological and institutional interventions
  • Use technology to make program evaluation dynamic, timely, and precise
  • Engage international and domestic partners with local knowledge
  • Apply collaborative approaches to problem solving
  • Deliver research results to stakeholders quickly and accurately
  • Empower citizens to monitor the performance of international public officials
  • Provide students with practical laboratory and field experience
  • Train students and young scholars to work in mixed-discipline research teams
  • Integrate our findings into the classroom curricula

PDEL measures success in technologies designed, policies developed, programs evaluated, improved human welfare, and students trained


Great universities are in continuous search for solutions to the fundamental challenges confronting the world. Within the social sciences, these challenges include identifying the incentive systems, governance mechanisms, and policy structures that improve the human condition. They are moving away from the abstract theorizing that dominated scholarship for much of the 20th century towards a hands-on empirical approach which involves active experimentation in the field and which exploits the global diffusion of information and communication technology. UC San Diego and its scholars are at the leading edge of this movement.

How do we incentivize

  • The teachers in India to improve the performance of their students?
  • The girls in Malawi to avoid behavior that raises the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS?
  • The voters in Afghanistan to report instances of electoral fraud at polling stations?

Our scholars approach such questions as problems in policy design. First we use economic, political, or social theory as a guide to imagine interventions that address a need (encouraging families to send their kids to school), then pilot alternative interventions (paying families based on school attendance versus increasing school funding), and move on to evaluate interventions using rigorous statistical tools applied to data collected, transmitted, and synthesized digitally. India, China, Brazil, and other emerging nations are now well ahead of the U.S. in using experiments to design public policy and they are beginning to adopt platforms that rely on mobile technology to deliver public services. The leading universities of the 21st century will be actively engaged in policy design and in partnering with academic institutions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to launch new research ventures that address global needs.

UC San Diego is singularly qualified to be a leader in developing a new class of solutions. We have a cadre of excellent researchers working in this vein, and a strong tradition of multidisciplinary collaboration. PDEL has created infrastructure that allows our researchers to move techniques to scale, in rigorous evaluations involving millions of people rather than small interventions in isolated areas.