About OSE Lab

The Open Source Economics Laboratory (OSE Lab) was founded by Richard Evans in January 2017 at the University of Chicago thanks to a generous five-year grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. The OSE Lab has a five-point mission that involves supporting open source, open access teaching, research, and policy tools.

  1. Create open access training material for computational economics
  2. Support open source research that is collaborative, transparent, and replicable
  3. Support policy-relevant open source applications
  4. Support open source dynamic visualization tools
  5. Support web apps for economic models

A. Create open access training material for computational economics.

The biggest service provided by the OSE Lab is our Summer Boot Camp. The 2018 camp had 25 students enrolled and 15 different instructors. All of the training materials for the Boot Camp are open access and are available through OSE Lab's open source GitHub repositories (2017 repo and 2018 repo). We expect to add lectures and training modules over the coming months and years.

B. Support open source research that is collaborative, transparent, and replicable.

Open source research is valuable for the replicability, sensitivity and robustness testing, and transparency of research. This mission goes beyond making public the code and data for papers. It involves using open source platforms of Git and GitHub in research to make collaboration more efficient. OSE Lab is currently supporting a number of open source projects and paying for student research positions.

C. Support policy-relevant open source applications.

In addition to research, economic models that are used for policy analysis have a philosophical obligation to be open source. Closed source and proprietary models cannot be verified or tested for sensitivity or robustness. OSM Lab is currently supporting three models (OG-USA, Tax-Calculator, and B-Tax) that are being used for policy analysis (key examples of use are the 2016 Presidential candidates, 2017 tax reform debate, and 2018 EITC and marginal tax rate debates).

D. Support open source dynamic visualization tools.

Dynamic visualizations (Bokeh, D3, JavaScript) are a key tool for both advanced researchers as well as lay people to explore, digest, and understand the complicated results of heterogeneous agent models and other complicated models and data structures. OSM Lab is supporting active development of stand-alone visualizations collected in an online gallery, implemented as results in online web app tools Cost of Capital Calculator, and a GitHub repository called plot-concepts where individuals can submit issues with dynamic visualization proposals and developers can help build those visualizations.

E. Support web apps for economic models.

OSE Lab is partnering with developers to build front-end web applications that allow users to manipulate a key subset of model parameters, run its economic models on Amazon Web Services, and return results to the user via the web interface. Web applications allow researchers to do quick computations with economic models without accessing the source code. Web apps also allow non-economists (e.g., policymakers, journalists, businesses, lobbyists) to run an economic model without having to comprehend all the technical details. Our current web app portals include TaxBrain (microsimulation model for household taxation as well as three linked dynamic models including OG-USA overlapping generations model) and Cost of Capital Calculator which calculates the effects of corporate tax policy on marginal tax rates (incentives) for different industries and asset classes using the B-Tax open-source model.

History

The OSE Lab was administered from the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago for its first two years from January 2017 to January 2019. During that time, it was called the Open Source Macroeconomics Laboratory (OSM Lab). In January 2019, the name was changed to Open Source Economics Laboratory to reflect the OSE Lab's broader mission in computational economics across fields, and its administration was moved to the Social Sciences Division at the University of Chicago.

Before coming to University of Chicago, Richard Evans and Kerk Phillips founded the BYU Macroeconomics and Computational Laboratory (BYU-MCL) at Brigham Young University in 2012. It was in the BYU-MCL in which the format for the rigorous economics, computational, and mathematics training was developed. The BYU-MCL lasted from 2012 to 2016. The format for the BYU-MCL boot camp was adapted from an interdisciplinary applied mathematics program at Brigham Young University (IMPACT), which ended in 2012 and became the Applied and Computational Mathematics Emphasis (ACME) in the mathematics major at Brigham Young University. The BYU-MCL's adaptation of the applied math and computational curriculum to the focused applications in economics was a particularly good fit.