A significant challenge for policy makers and academics interested in economics and public policy is to adequately quantify the impact of a given policy over time, isolating, to the extent possible, the relationship of policy to specific indicative variables, and to effectively communicate the conclusions and results of any analysis.
Often, the core challenge is a paucity of relevant data, an inability for social scientists to establish the sort of controlled experiments that may allow for true tests to be conducted on a policy or economic hypothesis. In other instances, much of the data has been collected and is made available, by a variety of governmental, inter-governmental, and NGO agencies. When the data is available, the difficulty often lies in reconciling disparate data sets, providing a coherent analysis, and presenting the analysis in such a way that a lay audience might make sense of it.
RM sent me a link to the following video, in which Swedish professor Hans Rosling presents some work of a very interesting initiative called Gapminder.org to make much of the available data about social and economic policy indicators available to students, policy makers, and similar audiences, and to provide an interface to the data and analyses that make the findings more relevant and less arcane. The 20 minute video is entertaining, and worth a look:
I will try to dig further into Gapminder.org, and report back with another post.