David Yokum

With wife Sara.

David Yokum
Lab @ DC
Washington, D.C.


The District of Columbia (pop. 681,000) wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of its programs, but didn’t have a practical, empirical process. Lacking bandwidth in individual agencies, it wasn’t able to apply scientific methods, even as it was collecting more data to use for evaluations.


Established in early 2016 by mayor Muriel Bowser, The Lab @ DC reports to the city administrator and serves as an in-house research hub. With a team of scientists supplemented by researchers in the agencies and partnering universities, the Lab applies scientific methods and insights to solve problems, in the process mapping out causes, effects and solutions. Early efforts range from a randomized control study of the efficacy of police body-worn cameras to an effort to better abate rat populations with predictive analytics. The Lab, which is funded in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, partners with think tanks, nonprofits and universities to create a community of practice and extend its resources.

Lessons Learned

Look for in-house scientific talent to create a rigorous process for designing and evaluating programs. Embed scientists into the government rather than using only outside reviewers. Outreach to the community is essential to intertwine their capabilities.

David’s Job

Oversees a team of 15 scientists, with backgrounds in psychology, law, economics, anthropology, sociology, data science, public health, and more.

David’s Background

Native of Louisiana, a behavioral scientist, lawyer, and bioethicist. University of Arizona: BS in biology ‘06, MA in bioethics ‘08, JD ‘13, PhD in psychology ‘14. Worked for the federal government, including a stint at the White House founding its Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (now the General Services Administration’s Office of Evaluation Sciences).

Startling Fact

Shared a room with his grandfather, PeePaw, until he was in high school.

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