Developing a Rational Decision-Support Framework Using an Economic Lens

Science, Technology, Engineer, and Math, together known as STEM, is foremost these days as experts explore global issues such as climate change, developing the workforce of the future, and equitable deployment of technology. ESI works for a wide range of clients, but it is not often that projects which are broad-ranging and topical are commissioned. Recently, a distinguished institution had completed interviews with leading STEM experts in an endeavor to provide recommendations to a capital investment firm on what STEM areas are prime funding opportunities and will provide optimal impact. Needing a judicious strategy for using this research, the institution turned to ESI to apply an economic lens in building a decision support framework.

As ESI highlights the firm’s analytical capabilities this month, this project showcases the application of data analysis, benefit-cost analysis, and research methods in the development of a rational approach and tools for program evaluation. ESI Director Rebecca DeJoseph managed the project, leading the research, conducting the analyses, and developing the recommendations. For this article she answers questions about the project.

Q: STEM is at the core of the majority of issues today and is a vast arena, what areas did the institution have ESI investigate?

Rebecca DeJoseph: We explored a lot of different topics within this work. In particular, the client was interested in different investment opportunities within the STEM field. So, while we started with very broad topics, we eventually delved into specific areas identified by their potential for growth. These topics included examining opportunities in the green bond market from a global context as well as broadband investment opportunities here in the United States. When focusing on investment in STEM education and workforce development, in particular, the research ended up pointing us to some regional locations in the United States that may be primed for investment in different areas, such as FinTech and smart manufacturing.

Q: Did your research and evaluation of the STEM expert interviews help you discover opportunities unique to these areas?

RD: The collaboration with the institution’s team, in particular their interviews with industry experts, was vital in taking seemingly broad topics and pinpointing the areas in which further analysis would be interesting. Their expert knowledge helped to streamline the research process.

Q: What supplemental research did you conduct to augment the expert interviews and literature review?

RD: To help put a quantitative lens to the client’s work, we utilized multiple resources to answer a set of research questions for each area explored. For instance, in researching broadband opportunities, we utilized Federal datasets to first understand where Federal investment was already underway and expected to continue in the near future. We then used the input-output modeling software IMPLAN to understand the economic and employment impact of these investments within the broadband sector and in the nation as a whole. Lastly, data from BurningGlass Technologies enabled our team to understand the type of jobs and skills needed to support the broadband expansion—unsurprisingly, a lot of these skills and occupations fell squarely into the STEM category.

Q: Lastly, was this a typical type of client and project for ESI?

RD: I wouldn’t say that this type of institution is a typical client for ESI as they do great research on their own, but this project and, in particular working with their team, was definitely an experience I would welcome in the future. This project was really interesting because it allowed our team to explore various subjects from a different angle and really combine a lot of the research skills, software, and platforms we typically use but in new and creative ways.

Rebecca DeJoseph, Director | [email protected]

Rebecca DeJoseph is a Director at Econsult Solutions, Inc. In addition, Ms. DeJoseph is currently an instructor in Economics and Statistics for The Community College of Philadelphia. Prior to joining ESI, Ms. DeJoseph worked as a senior economist in the Economic Analysis and Information branch of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this position, she provided economic analysis of regional labor market data for the media, private business, and general public through customized presentations, reports, and news releases.



When turning to Econsult Solutions, our clientele are seeking the expertise of economists, planners, policy analysts, and practitioners. For each project, we work collaboratively, combining rigorous data-driven analyses and robust quantitative tools with trusted expert insights to develop impactful, sustainable solutions.

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