Adventures in Research: Issue 1

Welcome to the first issue of our quarterly newsletter: Adventures in Research.

Our goal with this newsletter is simple: To stay in touch with people like you and to share things we’ve been geeking out over in the world of statistics and research. We settled on a quarterly cadence since everyone’s email inboxes are overflowing (including ours!).

teenage students sitting at a row of computers

BOOM! Our Latest Study Just Published!

One of our clients, EVERFI (hi, Dan Zapp!), helps high schools across the United States tackle difficult social issues, such as prescription drug abuse, by providing scalable, evidence-based digital curriculum to schools at no cost.

EVERFI came to us to conduct a rigorous randomized control trial (RCT) around the effectiveness of its prescription drug safety course. Read about the results in our recently published study in Child & Youth Care Forum.

(PS: You can learn more about how we worked with EVERFI here.)

Democracy's Data

What We’re Geeking Out About . . .

In Democracy’s Data, author Dan Bouk digs into the evolution of the census and the U.S. government’s process for deciding how to turn the people living in the U.S. into data points.

The government’s intentional omissions (for example, removing the category “Mexican” as a response option, which effectively erased the entire Mexican American population from historic records) are as important as the additions, like adding “partner” as a response option to describe how two adults in a household were related.

Alexandra Jacobs of The New York Times called the book “endearingly nerdy.” Frankly, we can’t think of a bigger compliment. If someone called those of us at LRA “endearingly nerdy,” we’d be pretty darn pleased. (Heck, it’s what inspired the name of this newsletter.)

We love the history and the detail in this book, but more than anything, we love how it brings to life a philosophy around data and data collection that we strive to acknowledge in every study we conduct at LRA.

In our view, data is not entirely objective. Every data point collected and described is the result of dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of decisions made by imperfect humans rife with their own biases and ideas about what is and isn’t important.

At LRA, we’re constantly considering how our own biases and choices impact each step we take on the decision-making path when designing studies and evaluations, developing hypotheses, selecting analytic approaches, and generating reports.

As an example, think about the word “only.” Only is a hugely loaded word when you stick it in front of a data point. Consider this sentence: Only 20% of participants reported increases in physical well-being after completing the 10-week course.

What happens when you remove “only”?

Suddenly, the reader has an opportunity to react to the information from their own perspective. One reader might think that 20% is a pretty darn big deal. Another reader might think that a 20% increase isn’t impressive enough for them to invest in that particular curriculum.

Here are some of the things we ask ourselves:

  • How can we identify and be aware of our own biases so we can better reduce their impact?
  • How can we err on the side of scientific rigor within the constraints of the study context?
  • How can we present meaningful results when writing up projects while still allowing the reader to interpret the results through their own lens?

Are you fascinated by this topic as much as we are?

Well, in addition to reading Democracy’s Data, we also recommend checking out this article — You Say Data, I Say System. It does a fantastic job explaining how the data you encounter every day is the result of a system of potentially flawed, human-generated decision points.

young boy kissing a Jack Russell Terrier on the nose

Client Spotlight

Have you ever watched your kids go ga-ga over their dog and you’re left thinking, “Hm, I wonder if anyone has studied the effects of pets on children’s mental health?”

No? Just us? 🙂

Well, our client, Dr. Megan Mueller, Professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, has researched that. (And yes, your dog is probably enriching your family’s life in ways that never even occurred to you.)

Here’s what Dr. Mueller has to say about working with LRA.

(We’re blushing!)

What’s Next For Us

Some interesting things we’re working on include conducting analyses for the evaluation of the 95 Phonics Core Program (PCP), an early literacy curriculum (which was recently accepted at Evidence for ESSA! Yay!). Plus, we’re doing an evaluation of an innovative (and incredibly timely) school-based mental health training program at Rhode Island College. We look forward to updating you more about these projects in future issues.

Until then, feel free to reach out any time if you’d like to discuss a research project—or simply to say hello. (You can respond directly to this email.)

We’ll see you sometime in Q2!

The Team at Lynch Research Associates