City of Philadelphia Behavioral Science Projects and Partners

Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet

Academic Partner: Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College 


Licenses and Inspections

Academic Partner: Swarthmore College

  • Tested the effect of messaging on online registration and renewal rates.

Department of Health

Academic Partner: Saint Joseph's University, University of Pennsylvania

  • Testing the effect of inspection checks on tobacco retailer compliance

  • Testing the effect of enhanced communication on tobacco retailer compliance

Basic Systems Repair Program

Academic Partner: Swarthmore College

  • Testing the effect of messaging on response rates

City Commissioner’s Office

Academic Partner: University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University

  • Testing the effect of follow-up on voter turnout

Philadelphia Youth Network

Academic Partner: Swarthmore College

  • Tested the effect of email reminders on summer job application completion.

Indego Bike Share

Academic Partner: University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University

  • Tested the effect of incentives on pass renewal

Philly VIP

Academic Partner: Swarthmore College

  • Testing the effect of messaging and a lottery on engagement among attorneys for pro-bono work concerning tangled titles.

Department of Human Resources

Academic Partner: University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College

  • Testing the effect of checklists and loss-gain framing on participation in the city's wellness program

Chief Integrity Office

Academic Partner: N/A

  • Testing the effect of messaging on survey participation among city employees during Integrity Week.

Philadelphia School District

Academic Partner: Swarthmore College 

  • Testing the effect of identify salience and incentives on participation in an annual survey among school teachers

  • Read more about this project in the Journal of Behavioral Public Administration HERE

Broader Research Projects

Heat Equity

Academic Partner: University of Pennsylvania

  • Partnering with the Office of Sustainability to survey residents in Hunting Park about heat to inform how future resources should be allocated.

Civil Service Equity

Academic Partner: N/A

  • Partnering with the Mayor's Office of Diversity and Inclusion to lead a cross departmental team of city administrators from the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Streets Department, and the Water Department to apply an equity lens to three civil service positions, with a concentrated focus on improving both racial and gender equity.

Free Library of Philadelphia

Academic Partner: University of Pennsylvania

  • Partnering with the Free Library to identify the most frequent barriers to accessing library services. The first phase of this project is surveying librarians from 10 libraries.

PHL Government Book Club

The PHL Government Book Club provides learning opportunities for City employees through literature and podcasts relating to behavioral science, human-centered design, and trauma-informed practices. It currently has over 100 members meeting quarterly to discuss the pre-selected book and ways in which the methodology discussed in the book can be applied across the City. 


Nudge - Richard Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

Moneyball for Government - A Project of Results for America

What Works: Gender Equity by Design - Iris Bohnet


Gov Innovator - Interview with David Yokum, Director, The Lab @ DC

Hidden Brain - Misbehaving with Richard Thaler

Two Guys On Your Head - Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke discuss ways to influence behavior


GovLabPHL Author Talks

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GovLabPHL recently launched a new series of Author Talks as a way to expand upon it's already existing PHL Government Book Club and provide an opportunity for City employees to directly connect with authors. Stay tuned for information about future Author Talks! Learn more about our first Author Talk  by visiting our Past Events page.