About


Data and Evidence-Based Decisions

Most public policies and practices have never been scientifically tested. Determinations about how we educate our children, deliver healthcare, rehabilitate incarcerated individuals, or house those without homes are not based on strong and rigorous empirical analyses. The traditional model of research typically involves funding challenges, long time lines, and topics that may have little practical utility. The BetaGov model of research offers an alternative approach.

BetaGov encourages and assists agencies to use data to make important decisions. By using a scientific approach, your trials may significantly increase the pace of learning within your own agency by identifying what works and what doesn't.

Developing In-House Research

Agencies should be developing innovations based on topics and areas that are relevant to their mission, clients, staff, and culture. There are many different methods and designs for testing innovations; deciding what is best will consider the specifics of your agency and idea. The "gold standard" for research has long been recognized as the randomized controlled trial (RCT). This design allows for easy interpretation of results in order to improve efficiency and performance. BetaGov supports the use of RCTs in designing research, while also recognizing that some innovations may not be testable with an RCT design. We will always endeavor to turn your idea into an RCT, but when this isn't possible, we can use other designs such as a group randomization trial (GRT) or perhaps other designs that don’t require random assignment to condition.

How it Works

We help our partners identify problems and test solutions, or test promising ways to innovate and optimize positive outcomes. The process usually starts with only an idea, and a trial is developed through discussions with agency staff. The collaborative process looks like this:

  • Invite staff to identify an area needing improvement or an idea for promising improvement
  • Develop methodology to test the new program, process, or procedure that includes essential trial components (e.g., participants, measures, procedures, outcomes) and prepare written "trial description"
  • Prepare measures/scales to gather data, trial scripts, consent forms, and other materials for the trial
  • Ensure leadership approval and logistical support from others in the agency
  • Provide introduction to research design and methods through "Pracademia" training of trial team
  • Identify launch date and randomly assign participants to trial condition
  • Implement intervention and control group procedures
  • Collect and analyze trial data
  • Prepare one-page trial summary "snapshot" to describe trial and outcomes

Who We Are


Our team includes psychologists, economists, policy experts, clinical researchers, statisticians, and consultants with decades of experience planning and conducting randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and collaborating with stakeholders in the field. Supported initially by funding from Give Well and Good Ventures, and by subsequent funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation, our services are provided at no cost.

Angela Hawken, Ph.D.
Angela Hawken, Ph.D.
Director

Angela Hawken, Ph.D., is a Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and director of the Litmus program. As founder and director of BetaGov, she works closely with practitioners to identify areas for policy and practice improvement.

Maureen Hillhouse, Ph.D.
Maureen Hillhouse, Ph.D.
Associate Director

Maureen Hillhouse, Ph.D., is associate director of BetaGov. Her expertise is in the development and implementation of clinical trials. Dr. Hillhouse also provides expertise on regulatory issues, data collection, instrument development, and statistical analyses.

David Farabee, Ph.D.
David Farabee, Ph.D.
Co-Director

David Farabee, Ph.D., co-directs BetaGov. He is also professor-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA and a principal investigator at the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs. Dr. Farabee's expertise ranges from conducting criminal justice randomized controlled trials to data analysis and publication.

Ariana Anderson, Ph.D.
Ariana Anderson, Ph.D.
Statistician

Ariana Anderson, Ph.D., is a statistician and provides assistance with data analyses, including identifying patterns of behavior and associated interventions. An assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, Dr. Anderson's research focus is creating algorithms to improve screening and treatment for mental-health disorders.

Sara Arango Franco, M.S.
Sara Arango Franco, M.S.
Statistician

Sara works as a Data Scientist for the Litmus team and BetaGov. She provides assistance with data management, processing and analysis. She holds a masters in Urban Informatics from NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress, and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Engineering. She has been a researcher in structural engineering at Purdue University; in optimization and microeconomics at the Center for Mathematical Modeling at Universidad de Chile; in urban models at the Research Group in Spatial Economics from Universidad EAFIT, and in energy demand modeling at New York University's Urban Observatory.

Denise O’Donnell
Denise O’Donnell
Senior Advisor

Denise O’Donnell was the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice through January 2017. Her previous positions include Deputy Secretary for Public Safety for NY, Commissioner of the NY State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Chair of the Commission on Sentencing Reform and of the Forensic Science Commission in NY, and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of NY. She has a master’s degree in social work and brings a strong criminal justice policy, research, planning, and implementation background to Litmus.

Jonathan Kulick, Ph.D.
Jonathan Kulick, Ph.D.
Senior Project Director

Jonathan Kulick, Ph.D., co-directs the Swift Certain Fair Resource Center and manages a portfolio of research and technical-assistance projects in crime, drugs, and governance. He provides his expertise on BetaGov trials in the criminal justice arena.

Walter Ling, M.D.
Walter Ling, M.D.
Senior Advisor

Walter Ling, M.D., is a board-certified addiction psychiatrist and neurologist. He is one of the founders and first Director of the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at UCLA. He has conducted clinical research focusing on medication development of pharmacotherapies for substance use disorders involving opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine, and has authored more than 220 books, chapters, and journal articles. Dr. Ling will provide guidance in support of research pertaining to substance use disorders, with an emphasis on innovative treatment approaches for opioid use disorder.

Jonathan Stewart
Jonathan Stewart
Chief of Staff

Jonathan Stewart is the chief of staff of Litmus, which includes BetaGov. In this role, Jon is responsible for Litmus strategy and developing new initiatives. At BetaGov, Jon is leading trials in policing. Previously, Jon worked as a Financial and Economic Analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He holds an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business with concentrations in Finance, Economics and Social Innovation and Impact.

Sandy Felkey Mullins, J.D.
Sandy Felkey Mullins, J.D.
Senior Advisor

Sandy Felkey Mullins, J.D., is a Senior Research Scholar in the Litmus program at NYU's Marron Institute. Ms. Mullins served as Washington State Governor Jay Inslee's senior policy advisor on public safety and government operations. Previously, she served as director of the WA Department of Corrections Office of Executive Policy, executive director of the WA Sentencing Guidelines Commission and Sex Offender Policy Board, and executive director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.

Eraka Bath, M.D.
Eraka Bath, M.D.
Medical Director

Eraka Bath, M.D., is a medical director working with BetaGov. An assistant professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute in the David Geffen School of Medicine, Dr. Bath's expertise is in diagnostic assessment and forensic consultation with adolescents.

Ellyn Schwaiger, M.P.P.
Ellyn Schwaiger
Assistant Project Director

Ellyn Schwaiger assists in the development and implementation of randomized controlled trials. Ms. Schwaiger's expertise includes project research, implementation, and coordination, as well as marketing and graphic design.

Kelly Smith
Kelly Smith
Assistant Project Director

Kelly Smith assists in the development and implementation of randomized controlled trials. Ms. Smith's expertise includes data and quality assurance, project implementation, fidelity monitoring, and data management.

Michelle Straubel
Michelle Straubel
Assistant Project Director

Michelle Straubel assists in the development and implementation of randomized controlled trials. Ms. Straubel's expertise includes marketing and social media.

Brian Perrochet
Communications Analyst

Brian Perrochet is an Associate Research Scholar in the Litmus program. Brian collaborates with Litmus principals to pursue funding for research assistance activities supported by the BetaGov component of Litmus.

Ken Booker
Ken Booker
Webmaster

Ken Booker provides his expertise in web development and database administration.

Dena McAllister
Associate Research Scholar

Dena McAllister, A.B.D., assists in providing randomized controlled trial support between BetaGov and partner agencies. Her expertise is in the field of education with an emphasis on literacy remedial programs and on students with disabilities, particularly students with autism.

Lukas McAllister
Project Assistant

Lukas McAllister is a project assistant at the NYU Marron Institute. He conducts research in support of the Litmus studies related to autism and anxiety. As an individual on the autism spectrum, he brings first-hand knowledge to the conversation. Luke is currently navigating the demands of getting a college education.