Research, Analysis, and Design

Honing expertise in analytic tools and methods

p201210_01, students, prgs, jeanne ringel

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND

The objective for the Research, Analysis, and Design stream is to enable students to understand complex human systems both conceptually and empirically, then harness this understanding to design effective policy solutions. Students in this stream tackle complex policy challenges through cutting-edge research and data analysis.

This stream is set up to help students develop rigorous modeling and empirical skills and to apply these skills to evaluate and design policy. As they explore Pardee RAND’s cross-cutting themes of ethics, communication, and social justice and racial equity, students also gain a solid understanding of what it takes to accomplish real and sustainable change. They tackle complex policy challenges through cutting-edge research and data analysis.

Research, Analysis, and Design Stream Requirements

In addition to 8 units of core program requirements, Research, Analysis and Design stream students have two distribution requirements, which they fulfill through their elective courses, studios, and research projects.

Modeling Human Systems Distribution (2 units)

Students in this stream develop competencies in modeling human systems by competing at least two full units in conceptual modeling electives courses, such as

  • computational modeling — agent-based modeling, robust decision making, system dynamics, or simulation
  • economic modeling — game theory, behavioral, microeconomics, or cost-benefit analysis
  • operations research — dynamic optimization
  • qualitative modeling — gaming, world-building

Recent courses focused on modeling human systems* include (but are not limited to)

  • Applications of Risk Analysis to Public Policy
  • Applying Behavioral Insights and Behavioral Economics
  • Computational Methods for Operations Research and Data Science
  • Cost-Benefit and Cost Effectiveness Analysis
  • Game Theory
  • Introduction to Demography
  • Introduction to Structural Equation Modeling
  • Multi-Objective Optimization: Practical Use and Policy Applications
  • Operations Research I
  • Operations Research II
  • Policy Analysis and the Modeling of Complex Problems
  • Robust Decision Making
  • Serious Gaming
  • Technology Foresight and Public Policy

Empirical Analysis Distribution (2 units)

Students develop empirical analysis competencies though at least two units of data collection or analysis electives courses, such as

  • comparative historical analysis
  • econometrics
  • machine learning
  • social network analysis
  • statistics
  • survey analysis
  • text analysis

Students hone their skills through analysis of data in lab-like settings and by working on real-world policy analysis projects at RAND.

Recent courses focused on empirical analysis* include (but are not limited to)

  • Advanced Econometrics I
  • Advanced Econometrics II
  • Advanced Econometrics III
  • Applied Psychometrics
  • Big Data Applications
  • Cultural Measurement and Analysis in Policy Research
  • Engaging Communities in Research
  • History and Public Policy
  • Introduction to Data Science
  • Issues of Modern Labor Economics
  • Machine Learning
  • Performance Measurement: Social, Behavioral and Political Science Perspectives on Design
  • Program Evaluation
  • Qualitative Research
  • Survey Design

* Many courses include both conceptual modeling and empirical analysis components. These lists are illustrative.

Elective Courses (6 units)

Students fulfill the remaining 6 units toward their 18-unit coursework requirement by choosing among a variety of electives. These may include traditional courses or tutorials. Elective offerings vary from year to year depending on student interest and instructor availability.


Students develop dissertations that build on their distribution coursework and policy research specialization. The dissertation enables students to make novel contributions in their areas of interest.

The Ideal Research Stream Candidate

The Research, Analysis, and Design stream looks for students who are committed to addressing policy challenges through rigorous policy analysis. Research, Analysis, and Design students have prior experience with research and analysis through their work and/or academic career. Students in this stream are curious about why policies succeed and fail, and they constantly look for new ways to understand the world around them. Students are driven to improve policy design through systematic evaluations of policy instruments and carefully designed experiments. Research, Analysis, and Design students want to become sophisticated users and developers of analytic tools.

Future Career Paths

Research stream graduates will be prepared for positions that benefit from sophisticated conceptual modeling and empirical analysis, such as:

  • Data scientists
  • Economists at international governmental organizations
  • Foresight team leaders
  • Heads of public and private organizations and government agencies
  • Heads of research in public and private organizations
  • Policy analysts at think tanks
  • Program evaluators
  • Researchers and professors in academic institutions
  • Strategic planners within organizations

See the initial job placements of our recent graduates for more information.