Penn’s Dennis Culhane and John Fantuzzo Awarded $1.9M for Evidence–based Policy and Integrated Data Systems Research

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The grants will allow AISP to expand data-sharing collaborations with multiple government agencies to improve research and the delivery of services.

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Two grants, totaling nearly $2 million, have been awarded to University of Pennsylvania professors Dennis Culhane and John Fantuzzo, enabling the continued development and expanded use of Integrated Data Systems, or IDS, for evidence-based policymaking through the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy, or AISP, initiative.

IDS link existing administrative data across multiple agencies and community providers to improve programs and policies through evidence-based collaboration. IDS help leaders and researchers evaluate what works, what doesn’t and how social problems can be effectively solved to meet the needs of families and individuals.

The major grants came this year from both the Laura and John Arnold Foundation – $1.1 million – and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – $800,000.

The MacArthur Foundation has been a longtime supporter of AISP and has contributed more than $5 million to the initiative since 2008. This is the first time AISP has received funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

“MacArthur continues to generously support our work in the development, use and innovation of IDS,” said Fantuzzo, the Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations in Penn’s Graduate School of Education. “Through this most recent grant, we will be able to implement a training and technical assistance system to benefit states and counties that are developing IDS, create and test a model of IDS use for randomized control trials and generate recommendations for continued innovations in the field by establishing the AISP Research Consortium.”

With additional funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a team led by Fantuzzo and Culhane, the Dana and Andrew Stone Chair in Social Policy in the School of Social Policy & Practice, will embark on “AISP Innovation.” The new initiative will enable AISP to refine and test a more efficient, secure and effective approach to IDS for state and local governments.

“Our intent is to generate uniform standards of best practices for the most challenging aspects of operating an IDS,” Culhane said.

Through a comprehensive 2013 study, Culhane and Fantuzzo identified the main barriers faced by states and counties with existing IDS. Challenges include agency concerns about data security as well as the time-consuming processes required to secure the legal agreements and the cumbersome contract procurements necessary to get the work done. Leadership also needs an effective data infrastructure with state-of-the-art technology tools that can link multiple data sources over time, store and update linkage keys and extract cohorts for research and analysis. 

To further improve data security but maintain access, a secure system is also needed for remote analysis of data. By addressing these needs, AISP Innovation aims to eliminate obstacles and help government more quickly determine what works, for whom and at what cost.

As the concept continues to emerge, the benefits of IDS are expanding and can be pivotal in tracking and improving programs and policies, such as those for juvenile and adult justice, homelessness, health care, education, assisted housing, workforce development and child-welfare services. Thirteen jurisdictions, comprising 26 percent of the United States population, currently maintain an IDS.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation initially funded the AISP project through a series of grants to Culhane and Fantuzzo. More information about AISP is available at and the Understanding Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy animation.


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