AAP Public Management Students Competed in NASPAA-Batten Student Policy Simulation Competition

By Lauren Vessey and Jim Ong


Imagine this year’s flu scaled into a pandemic like that of a hundred years ago. Governments would need to safeguard their citizens through enacting swift policies with split second decisions. As students in the AAP Public Management Program, we tested our quick analysis skills by participating in the 2018 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition February 24th, where the topic was pandemic crisis management.


A total of 563 students in 117 teams competed globally at 16 sites. This daylong competition featured four computer-based simulation rounds, and two policy memo-writing rounds. The simulation rounds required teams to represent a different fictions country’s government, and then interact directly with the simulation itself and three other teams on site. Teams rapidly decided policies as new events arose and other teams implemented their own policies. Additionally, the memo rounds had teams compose policy recommendations based on previous simulation round.

Lauren Vessey’s team advanced to the semi-final round, after scoring well on all the simulation and memo rounds. The semi-final round required a short, taped policy presentation the team's decision-making process and policy recommendations.


We both found this an enriching experience that complements our Johns Hopkins degree. “This valuable real-world simulation marries classroom theory with applied decision making, both of which are prized by employers,” Lauren Vessey commented. Jim Ong added, “The NASPAA competition is a state of the art policy simulation that exposes students to real-world situations. I highly recommend it.” Students interested in next year’s competition consult the following website in the fall at:


GAB Forum: Machine Learning for Risk-Based Enforcement

This month's Government Analytics Breakfast Forum welcomed Jennifer Diamantis, Associate Director and Chief, Office of Market Intelligence and Austin Gerig, Assistant Director, Office of Research and Data Services from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to present their talk, Using Data Analysis and Machine Learning for Risk-Based Enforcement.

The presenters discussed how the SEC is using analytics to detect and gather evidence of insider trading and other market abuses.  Analytics allow the SEC to identify suspicious activity without receiving specific tips or complaints.  Further, the SEC is now better able to identify other individuals who may be involved with known suspicious activity. 

The SEC relies on a variety of statistical methods to make sense of the data they continuosly receive from the entities they regulate.  Using mostly open-source software such as R and Python, the SEC uses machine learning, text analytics, cluster analysis and network analysis to detect anomalies and abnormal behavior that may warrant further investigation.

The speakers were careful to note that these methods may, on occasion, produce false negative or false positives, so the results are carefully interpreted by those who have significant experience in the financial industry. 

The increased reliance on analytics has helped the SEC save resources by empowering them to accomplish more with less human capital.

A full recording of the presentation can be viewed here


Dr. Jennifer Bachner Discusses Best State Capitals on WalletHub

Director of the MS in Government Analytics program Dr. Jennifer Bachner discusses how to evaluate the nation's state capitals in WalletHub's 2018's Best State Capitals to Live in.  For example, in response to the question of whether residents of capital cities are more likely to be politically engaged, Bachner explains:

Given the work of political staff, advocacy groups, lobbyists and other professionals in state capitals, you can expect to find a higher rate of engaged residents in a capital city.  There are also reasons to suspect that even those not directly employed in the political arena may be more politically engaged.  For example, political science teaches us that higher levels of social capital are linked to more political engagement, and many state capitals boast tight-knit communities.  Further, research shows that political knowledge leads to an increase in political engagement, and residents of state capitals are more likely to possess higher levels of political knowledge as they work with or even interact socially with other residents whose professional lives revolve around state government affairs.

Read the full article here.


MA in Government Faculty Al From featured in Washington Post Magazine

Al From Al From who is co-teaching a class with Alice McKeon on Political Ideas, Strategy and Policy Implementation was featured this past weekend in The Washington Post Magazine -- see article.  He along with other political strategists discuss how the Democratic Party could benefit from the infusion of more moderate voices just as Bill Clinton did in the 1990s.  


GAB Forum: Melvin Greer, Chief Data Scientist at Intel

Today's Government Analytics Breakfast Forum welcomed Melvin Greer, Chief Data Scientist at Intel Corporation for his talk, Artificial Intelligence: Driving Innovation in Government.

Mr. Greer spoke about the many ethical and legal implications of using big data and automation in government.  For example, data collected on children, such as their academic performance and indiscretions, might significantly influence their prospects in the workforce later in life.  Is this a fair and appropriate use of data?
Mr. Greer also spoke about the need for high quality data science programs in higher education, and emphasized that these programs should focus on meaningful applications of data science methods to challenges across government.  He discussed some of the very real problems related to water, transportation, cyber security and healthcare that can be addressed with emerging analytical approaches.
It's useful to distinguish between different areas of data science, namely analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.  Each area is best suited to address different types of problems.  Researchers must devote serious consideration to whether a particular approach is useful for the problem at hand before diving into the analysis.
Many thanks to Mr. G1reer for a fantastic presentation.  A video recording will be posted here shortly.