top of page

Split Decision 
The Decision Science Podcast 

What Clients Say


Dr. David Yokum - From Behavioural Science to Public Policy

Can science and policy work together? What do scientists and politicians need to do better to make effective change in society? In this insightful episode, we delve into the captivating work and expertise of Dr. David Yokum, the esteemed Director of The Policy Lab at Brown University. With a distinguished background encompassing a JD and PhD in Psychology, Dr. Yokum has embarked on a transformative journey to bridge the gap between rigorous scientific inquiry and effective policy implementation. 


Drawing from his extensive experience, which includes his current role as Chief Scientist for North Carolina's Office of State Budget and Management, as well as his instrumental contributions as the founding director of The Lab @ DC and a founding member of the White House's Social & Behavioral Sciences Team, Dr. Yokum has played a pivotal role in bolstering scientific capacity within governmental structures.


Prepare to be enlightened as we explore Dr. Yokum's groundbreaking research, notably his instrumental role in conducting the world's largest field experiment on a police body-worn camera program in the United States. Join us as we delve into the profound implications of this research and gain invaluable insights for both policymakers and resarchers on how to navigate the intricate landscape where science and policy intersect.


  • Why does David do what he does? (02:02)

  • What value do scientific methods have in helping us understand society? (04:30)

  • The hurdles of applying behavioural science to public policy (06:55)

  • What should policymakers know about science? (09:30)

  • The world's largest RCT on police body-worn cameras - i.e. what is a RCT? (13:40)

  • What is the value of experimental RCTs? (22:50)

  • What do scientists need to know about policy and governance? (28:40)

  • How should scientists communicate (35:18)

  • Using behavioural science to understand vaccine hesitancy (39:50)

  • Experiment versus evidence-based policy making - why does context matter in science (45:30)

  • Getting people to pay their taxes - trying to replicate findings across contexts (49:40)

  • Why we need social science in the real world (55:10) 

  • Summary of David's top tips for researchers and policymakers (59:50)


Guest bio


Dr. David Yokum, 
Director, Policy Lab at Brown University | Chief Scientist, North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management

David Yokum, JD, PhD is Director of The Policy Lab at Brown University, where he leads a wide portfolio of work leveraging scientific methods to improve public policy and operations. David is also Senior Advisor to North Carolina's Office of Strategic Partnerships


David was previously the founding director of The Lab @ DC in the D.C. Mayor’s Office and, before that, a founding member of the White House’s Social & Behavioral Sciences Team and director of its scientific delivery unit housed at the U.S. General Services Administration. President Obama institutionalized the latter work in Executive Order 13707, “Using Behavioral Science Insights to Better Serve the American People.” All three ventures were exemplars of building internal-to-government scientific capacity and partnerships with universities, which have since inspired replications across the world.


David’s work—from the world’s largest field experiment of a police body-worn camera program, to building algorithms that predict the location of rats, to a Form-a-Palooza initiative systematically re-designing all government forms—has been published in diverse outlets (e.g. Nature Human Behavior, PNAS, Health Affairs, Governing Magazine), received widespread media coverage (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, etc.), and impacted individuals and communities across the country. Upwards of 100 field experiments have now been completed under The Policy Lab, The Lab @ DC, and the Office of Evaluation Sciences. 


David was the host of The Podcast @ DC and currently a new podcast called 30,000 Leagues, which explores work at the nexus of science, public policy, and life in general. His public speaking won the Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Arizona, and his applied work has received numerous accolades, including the COSSA Public Impact Award. 


He earned a J.D. and Ph.D. (psychology: cognition and neural systems) from the University of Arizona, a Master’s degree in Bioethics & Medical Humanities from the University of South Florida, and a B.S. in Biology from Birmingham-Southern College.

bottom of page