Quantifying Policy Responses to a Global Emergency: Insights from the COVID-19 Pandemic

47 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2020

See all articles by Jian Gao

Jian Gao

Northwestern University - Center for Science of Science and Innovation; Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO); Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

Yian Yin

Northwestern University - Center for Science of Science and Innovation; Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO); Northwestern University - Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences

Benjamin F. Jones

Northwestern University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Dashun Wang

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO)

Date Written: June 24, 2020

Abstract

Public policy must confront emergencies that evolve in real time and in uncertain directions, yet little is known about the nature of policy response. Here we take the coronavirus pandemic as a global and extraordinarily consequential case, and study the global policy response by analyzing a novel dataset recording policy documents published by government agencies, think tanks, and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) across 114 countries (37,725 policy documents from January 2nd through May 26th 2020). Our analyses reveal four primary findings. (1) Global policy attention to COVID-19 follows a remarkably similar trajectory as the total confirmed cases of COVID-19, yet with evolving policy focus from public health to broader social issues. (2) The COVID-19 policy frontier disproportionately draws on the latest, peer-reviewed, and high-impact scientific insights. Moreover, policy documents that cite science appear especially impactful within the policy domain. (3) The global policy frontier is primarily interconnected through IGOs, such as the World Health Organization, which produce policy documents that are central to the COVID-19 policy network and draw especially strongly on scientific literature. Removing IGOs’ contributions fundamentally alters the global policy landscape, with the policy citation network among government agencies increasingly fragmented into many isolated clusters. (4) Countries exhibit highly heterogeneous policy attention to COVID-19. Most strikingly, a country’s early policy attention to COVID-19 shows a surprising degree of predictability for the country’s subsequent deaths. Overall, these results uncover fundamental patterns of policy interactions and, given the consequential nature of emergent threats and the paucity of quantitative approaches to understand them, open up novel dimensions for assessing and effectively coordinating global and local responses to COVID-19 and beyond.

Keywords: public policy; global emergency; COVID-19; science of science; computational social science

JEL Classification: H0; Q5; J58; I1

Suggested Citation

Gao, Jian and Yin, Yian and Jones, Benjamin F. and Wang, Dashun, Quantifying Policy Responses to a Global Emergency: Insights from the COVID-19 Pandemic (June 24, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3634820 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3634820

Jian Gao (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Center for Science of Science and Innovation ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO) ( email )

Chambers Hall
600 Foster Street
Evanston, IL 60208-4057
United States

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Yian Yin

Northwestern University - Center for Science of Science and Innovation ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO) ( email )

Chambers Hall
600 Foster Street
Evanston, IL 60208-4057
United States

Northwestern University - Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences ( email )

2145 Sheridan Road
Room C210
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Benjamin F. Jones

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-3177 (Phone)
847-467-1777 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dashun Wang

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO) ( email )

Chambers Hall
600 Foster Street
Evanston, IL 60208-4057
United States

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