2020: A year in review

Highlights from the Policy Simulation Library in 2020.

Jason DeBacker


December 23, 2020

This year has been one to forget! But 2020 did have its bright spots, especially in the PSL community. This post reviews some of the highlights from the year.

The Library was able to welcome two new models to the catalog in 2020: microdf and OpenFisca-UK. microdf provides a number of useful tools for use with economic survey data. OpenFisca-UK builds off the OpenFisca platform, offering a microsimulation model for tax and benefit programs in the UK.

In addition, four new models were added to the Library as incubating projects. The ui-calculator model has received a lot of attention this year in the U.S., as it provides the capability to calculate unemployment insurance benefits across U.S. states, a major mode of delivering financial relief to individuals during the COVID crisis. PCI-Outbreak directly relates to the COVID crisis, using machine learning and natural language processing to estimate the true extent of the COVID pandemic in China. The model finds that actual COVID cases are significantly higher than what official statistics claim. The COVID-MCS model considers COVID case counts and test positivity rates to measure whether or not U.S. communities are meeting certain benchmarks in controlling the spread of the disease. On a lighter note, the Git-Tutorial project provides instruction and resources for learning to use Git and GitHub, with an emphasis on the workflow used by many projects in the PSL community.

The organization surrounding the Policy Simulation Library has been bolstered in two ways. First, we have formed a relationship with the Open Collective Foundation, who is now our fiscal host. This allows PSL to accept tax deductible contributions that will support the efforts of the community. Second, we’ve formed the PSL Foundation, with an initial board that includes Linda Gibbs, Glenn Hubbard, and Jason DeBacker.

Our outreach efforts have grown in 2020 to include the regular PSL Demo Day series and this PSL Blog. Community members have also presented work with PSL models at the PyData Global Conference, the Tax Economists Forum, AEI, the Coiled Podcast, and the Virtual Global Village Podcast. New users will also find a better experience learning how to use and contribute to PSL models as many PSL models have improved their documentation through the use of Jupyter Book (e.g., see the Tax-Calculator documentation).

We love seeing the community around open source policymaking expand and are proud that PSL models have been used for important policy analysis in 2020, including analyzing economic policy responses to the pandemic and the platforms of presidential candidates. We look forward to more progress in 2021 and welcome you to join the effort as a contributor, financially or as an open source developer.

Best wishes from PSL for a happy and healthy new year!