2023: A year in review

Highlights from the Policy Simulation Library in 2023.

Jason DeBacker


December 28, 2023

While there haven’t been any blog posts in 2023 :wink:, it has been a productive year for the Policy Simulation Library (PSL) community and PSL Foundation!

We’ve continued to serve our mission through education and outreach efforts. We hosted 13 Demo Days in 2023, including presentations from individuals at the Congressional Budget Office, Allegheny County, NOAA, Johns Hopkins, QuantEcon, the City of New York, and other institutions. Archived videos of the Demo Days are available on our YouTube Channel.

In addition, we hosted an in person workshop at the National Tax Association’s annual conference in November. This event featured the PolicyEngine-US project and was lead by Max Ghenis and Nikhil Woodruff, co-founders of PolicyEngine. Attendees included individuals from the local area (Denver) and conference attendees, who represented academia, government, and think tanks. Max and Nikhil provided an overview of PolicyEngine and then walked attendees through a hands-on exercise using the PolicyEngine US tool, having them write code to generate custom plots in a Google Colab notebook. It was a lot of fun – and the pizza was decent too!

Speaking of PolicyEngine, this fiscally-sponsored project of PSL Foundation had a banner year in terms of fundraising and development. The group received several grants in 2023 and closed out the year with a large grant from Arnold Ventures. They also wrote an NSF grant proposal which they are waiting to hear back from. The group added an experienced nonprofit executive, Leigh Gibson, to their team. Leigh provides support with fundraising and operations, and she’s been instrumental in these efforts. In terms of software development, the PolicyEngine team has been able to greatly leverage volunteers (more than 60!) with Pavel Makarchuk coming on as Policy Modeling Manager to help coordinate these efforts. With their community, PolicyEngine has codified numerous US state tax and benefit policies and has developed a robust method to create synthetic data for use in policy analysis. Be on the lookout for a lot more from them in 2024.

QuantEcon, another fiscally sponsored project, has also made tremendous contributions to open source economics in 2023. Most importantly, they ran a very successful summer school in West Africa. In addition, they have continued make key contributions to software tools useful for teaching and training economics tools. These include Jupyteach, which Spencer Lyon shared in our Demo Day series. With their online materials, textbooks, and workshops around the world, QuantEcon is shaping how researchers and policy analysts employ economic tools to solve real-world problems.

PSL Foundation added a third fiscally sponsored project, Policy Change Index (PCI) in 2023. PCI was founded by Weifeng Zhong, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and uses natural language processing and machine learning to predict changes in policy among autocratic regimes. PCI has had a very successful start with PCI-China, predicting policy changes in China, and PCI-Outbreak, predicting the extent of true COVID-19 case counts in China during the pandemic. Currently, they are extending their work to include predictive indices for Russia, North Korea, and Iran. PSL-F is excited for the opportunity to help support this important work.

Other cataloged projects have continued to be widely used in 2023. To note a few of these use cases, the United Nations has partnered with Richard Evans and Jason DeBacker, maintainers of OG-Core, to help bring the modeling platform to developing countries they are assisting. Tax Foundation’s Capital Cost Recovery model has been updated to 2023 and used in their widely cited 2023 Tax Competitiveness Index. And the Tax-Calculator and TaxData projects both continue to used by think tanks and researchers.

As 2023 comes to a close, we look forward to 2024. We’ll be launching a new PSLmodels.org website soon. And there’ll be many more events – we hope you join in.

From all of us at the PSL, best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!