Fred Boehmke, director of the Iowa Social Science Research Center and professor of political science, recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation. The $202,820, three-year grant will help to create a database that includes information on policy actions by all 50 state legislatures, administrative branches and courts to allow tracking the spread of policies adopted through the United States.
Policy diffusion has been a topic of focus across the social sciences for several decades, but due to limitations of data and computational technology, researchers have not taken a comprehensive look at patterns of diffusion across many different policies. The investigators propose to combine cutting-edge methods of text and network analysis to understand how policies, as represented in digitized text, spread through networks connecting the American states. The investigators will develop both data and computational methods that address the most pressing limitations to the study of policy diffusion networks. The project will result in two key contributions: (1) a comprehensive source of data with which to track the movement of policies from one state government to another, across three governing branches, and (2) a user-friendly, open source software package for understanding and visualizing diffusion networks from digitized records of policies. These resources will help researchers, public officials, advocacy groups and other relevant stakeholders understand how to balance the competing goals of innovation and consistency in public policy.