IDS.410J | Spring 2013 | Graduate

Modeling and Assessment for Policy


Class Case Studies

Over the course of the semester, you will, as part of a small group, research and present one case study of modeling and assessment for policy to the rest of the class. These are noted in the Calendar as Class Case Study 1–6.

At the beginning of the semester, you will let us know your top three choices and we will assign you to a group. The six case study topics are:

  1. NASA’s Model Standard
  2. Economic Modeling
  3. Oil Spill
  4. Clean Air
  5. Sports Statistics
  6. Cancer Screening

General instructions, as well as a one-page briefing with initial topic references will be provided by the instructors four weeks prior to your presentation date. One week before your presentation, your group will circulate a short briefing paper to the class on the case (maximum 5 pages single-spaced) as well as any additional background readings you suggest for preparation. On the day of your presentation, please prepare 20–30 minutes of presentation and discussion questions for the class. As part of developing this case, each group will meet with the teaching staff to discuss both substantive case study lessons and presentation plans. Your briefing paper and class presentation will be worth 15% of your final grade; your group will also be asked to comment on another’s presentation (5%).

Case Study Memo

Your 5-page memo, and class presentation, should address the following questions:

  • What is the goal of the technically-focused policy analysis? Put another way, what decision needs to be made?
  • Who is or was the decision-maker?
  • What technical information is or was available to inform this decision? Was a particular model or statistical approach used?
  • Who conducted the technical analysis and how?
  • How was the technical information viewed by the decision-makers?
  • What policy decision was made, and what were its implications?
  • What general lessons can you draw from this case about the use of technical information in policy?

In your memo, you should provide your classmates with enough background information to understand the basics of the issue, the technical analysis, and the decision-making process. You should also include your analysis and main insights drawn from the case.

At the conclusion of your memo, please include:

  • A list of suggested further readings (3–5). Note which you will expect your classmates to have read, and which are supplementary. All will be posted on the course website. Use your judgment about the length of the readings.
  • 3-5 questions for class discussion.

Class Case Study Reviewers

The reviewer group will have 15 minutes to lead class discussion in response to the case study group’s presentation. In order to do this effectively, the reviewer group should coordinate beforehand, discuss the case materials, and prepare 2–3 slides to identify the issues they would like to raise with the class.

Potential areas of further discussion that the review group might consider are:

  • Critiques of the case group’s conclusions or lessons from the case.
  • Aspects of the case that the group may have overlooked, or not focused specifically on, that the review group thinks are relevant and / or interesting.
  • Relationship of the case to other cases or class discussions: general lessons, comparing or contrasting to other cases.

The teams have provided their case study memo and reading list as examples of student work for your reference.