The University this fall launched an interdisciplinary coalition of researchers aimed at creating strategies for ameliorating poverty among large populations.

Conceived by School of Management professor Mushfiq Mobarak, the Yale Research Initiative on Research & Scale, known as Y-RISE, aims to promote communication and collaboration among policymakers and scholars. The program was funded by the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale as well as an anonymous donor.

“Y-RISE and its partners will develop techniques to guide policymakers and facilitate large-scale implementation of programs that improve the lives of people throughout the globe,” Mobarak said.

Y-RISE aims to address a gap in policy design and execution that organizers say originates from groups — both affiliated with and independent from governments — that implement anti-poverty programs without an understanding of how they might affect specific communities.

In past years, University researchers devoted to tackling poverty identified successful programs to assist disadvantaged communities through small-scale, randomly controlled trials, according to the Y-RISE website.

But when researchers attempted to extend those changes to a larger population, the website says, “complexities arise.”

“The problem is that we way we write these academic papers is in questions that do not match what these societies need,” said Gerard Padró i Miquel, an economics and political science professor. “Y-RISE is involved in obtaining local data in these communities to achieve effective policy.”

Y-RISE is “the science of scale for policy interventions,” said contributing researcher and Yale economics professor Kevin Donovan. He added that the initiative will provide a space for leading researchers from around the globe to scale up poverty-alleviating projects, build networks, host conferences and create seed grants.

The initiative consists of a set of five research networks: Political Economy Effects on Policy Interventions; Evidence Aggregation and External Validity; Spillover, Network, and General Equilibrium Effects of Policy Interventions; Macro, Growth, and Welfare Effects of Policy Interventions; and Social Enterprise.

Within each network, there are two lead researchers affiliated with leading research universities across the United States. These “conveners” direct a group of contributing researchers who come from a number of fields, including econometrics, political science and operational research.

The five networks all share the common goal of unearthing the nuances of policy and focusing on how changes in one area can affect conditions in another.

For instance, the Political Economy Effects on Policy Interventions network, led in part by Padró, centers on how government officials may handle the implementation of programs if a political incentive exists. Padró told the News that he has seen this phenomenon firsthand in his own research.

“In Brazil, a large-scale conditional cash transfer program was significantly more effective in reducing school dropout rates when local mayors faced re-election,” he said.

For the research network focused on Evidence Aggregation and External Validity, led in part by economics Ed Vytlacil, social scientists are concerned with “determining how much we can generalize existing evaluations … [and] developing sound statistical procedures for quantifying uncertainty about impacts of programs implemented in a new set of circumstances.”

In addition to the gap in policy research that Y-RISE confronts, the initiative is also focused on partnering with organizations to ease the implementation of their findings.

Padró said that this research could even be applied in New Haven.

“In principle, the tools developed through Y-RISE could be used anywhere,” Padró said. “The insides of moving from small-scale academic papers to effective policy abroad should be able to be translated in any community struggling with poverty.”

There are currently 67 researchers affiliated with Y-RISE.

Jose Garcia |