By Christoph Demers
Hi all! My name is Christoph Demers, and I spent my summer as a research intern at the National Priorities Project. Currently, I am pursuing a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Business Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I am also a research assistant.
When I began looking for internships for the summer, I knew I wanted to work with an organization that would allow me to gain experience manipulating and analyzing data. But I also I wanted to intern for an organization that furthers the democratic ideals I hold dear, such as government transparency, citizen engagement, and democratization of knowledge dissemination. Luckily for me, the National Priorities Project offered me a research internship.
During my time here, I had the opportunity to work on a wide range data projects, and have learned so much from NPP’s incredible staff. I’ve worked with data from the Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the IRS, and the Office of Management and the Budget, among others. I’ve started to learn and use the programming language Python, a terrific tool for data analysis. I’ve helped update NPP's interactive “Trade-Offs” feature, dissected federal contracts, and contributed to an exciting new project that examines the flow of federal dollars to states and localities (stay tuned, this project is going to be amazing!).
Let me tell you about a tool I worked on that you can use right now.
NPP’s Trade-Offs tool helps demystify and localize the impact of the federal budget and allows anyone to examine the implicit value judgments of the federal budget. I helped create the spreadsheets that allow federal budgeting information to be broken down by state, county, and city. To illustrate: the tool tells me that taxpayers from my home state of Rhode Island will pay $1.67 billion for Department of Defense spending in 2014, which would be enough for Little Rhody to provide full four-year college scholarships to the some 8,000 graduating high school seniors…for the next four graduating classes. Or provide 10,000 Ocean State veterans with much-needed medical care for 15 years. Or some combination of the two.
Reflecting on my time here, I greatly enjoyed working on critical projects that help citizens examine, question, and if necessary, challenge how the federal budget distributes our national resources. I would like to thank the staff at NPP for inviting me to join their team, and especially Director of Data and Technology Becky Sweger, for acting as a terrific mentor and guide into the world of data this summer. Thanks so much!