Christopher Nelson

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Senior Political Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. and M.A. in political science, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; B.A. in political science, University of Minnesota

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Christopher Nelson is senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He previously served as associate director for research at RAND's Pittsburgh office.

Nelson's current work focuses on evaluating and improving systems for national health security, including analytical support for the National Health Security Strategy and Implementation Plan, development of performance measures and standards, and program evaluations. Results of his research have appeared in Health Affairs, the American Journal of Public Health, Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, Annual Review of Public Health, and numerous RAND reports and briefings to policymakers.

Nelson has also studied workplace safety and was founding director of the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace. In addition, he spent several years evaluating market-based educational reforms in the United States; his education-related work was published in What's Public About Charter Schools Lessons Learned About Choice and Accountability (coauthored with Gary Miron, Corwin Press, 2002) and numerous papers and technical reports.

Before coming to RAND, Nelson was a senior research associate at the Western Michigan University Evaluation Center, visiting assistant professor of Public Policy and Politics at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Public Policy and Management, and a policy analyst with the Illinois state legislature.

Nelson received his B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Previous Positions

Visiting Faculty, Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University

Recent Projects

  • Analytical support for the National Health Security Strategy
  • Performance measurement tools for public health emergency preparedness and response
  • Infrastructure standards for mass antibiotic dispensing
  • Initial evaluation of the Cities Readiness Initiative
  • Evaluation tools for crisis decisionmaking in public health

Selected Publications

Nelson C, E Beckjord, D Dausey, E Chan, N Lurie, D Lotstein, "How Can We Strengthen the Evidence Base for Public Health Emergency Preparedness?" Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 2(4), 2008

Christopher Nelson et al., "Assessing Public Health Emergency Preparedness: Concepts, Tools, and Challenges," Annual Review of Public Health, 28, 2007

Christopher Nelson et al., "Conceptualizing and Defining Public Health Emergency Preparedness," American Journal of Public Health, 97, 2007

N. Lurie et al., "Public Health Preparedness: Evolution or Revolution?" Health Affairs, 25(4), 2006

John Mendeloff et al., Small Businesses and Workplace Fatality Risk: An Exploratory Analysis, RAND Corporation (TR-371), 2006

Ranney J, C Nelson, & M Coplen, "The Efficacy of Behavior-based Safety in the U.S. Railroad Industry: Evidence from Amtrak-Chicago," Human Factors in Organizational Design and Management, 8, 2005

Ranney J, C Nelson, "The Impacts of Participatory Safety Rules Revision in the U.S. Railroad Industry: An Exploratory Assessment," Transportation Research Record, (1899):156-163, 2004

Honors & Awards

  • Thomas Lord Distinguished Scholar, RAND Institute for Civil Justice

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Los Angeles Times; United Press International

Commentary: San Diego Union-Tribune


  • Paramedics pushing a patient on a gurney into a hospital

    Saving Lives After Tragedy

    Natural and man-made mass-casualty incidents are a growing threat. Evaluating successes and shortcomings after each crisis can contribute to the design and implementation of robust and resilient response systems and ensure the best possible outcomes for individuals and impacted communities.

    Dec 14, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • Navigating Research on Alternative Schools

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Sep 19, 2004 San Diego Union-Tribune