Nelson Lim

Photo of Nelson Lim
Director, Workforce, Development, and Health Program, RAND Project AIR FORCE; Senior Social Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology, University of California, Los Angeles; B.A. in economics, University of California, Los Angeles

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Nelson Lim is director of the Workforce, Development, and Health program in RAND Project AIR FORCE, and a senior social scientist at the RAND Corporation. Lim has worked with federal and local government agencies to improve their human resource management (HRM) practices for close to two decades. His clients include the Department of Defense, the United States Armed Forces, the United States Secret Service, National Security Agency, the Department of Justice, the City of Los Angeles, and the City of San Diego, as well as several large corporations. He applies rigorous quantitative as well as qualitative methods to uncover root causes of HRM challenges ranging from outreach, recruiting, talent management, workforce development, and retention. In 2009, Lim led the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC), a congressionally mandated commission to improve the diversity of top military leaders as the research director. The MLDC provided 20 specific recommendations to the United States Congress and the President of the United States. Congress has adopted the MLDC recommendations in a series of National Defense Authorization Acts, and DoD accepted and implemented the MLDC recommendations. In addition to working with federal agencies and large corporations, Lim has worked with cities specifically to assist police and fire departments with their recruiting. He assisted the Los Angeles Police Department and the San Diego Police Department to identify potential barriers for minorities and women to complete the recruiting process and improve the recruiting and diversity of their recruits. Lim earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.


  • Police form a line after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, November 24, 2014

    Progress After Ferguson? Good Ideas Need Good Implementation

    President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing has done a great service by providing dozens of sound recommendations—good ideas that could help avoid another Ferguson. Now we need good implementation to go along with them.

    Mar 9, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • A man holding a 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' pose and wearing an 'I Can't Breathe' mask outside City Hall, New York City, December 10, 2014

    Can Big Data Help Build Trust in the Police?

    After two controversial grand jury decisions not to indict police in the deaths of unarmed African Americans, a White House task force has 90 days to provide recommendations for promoting accountability among law enforcement agencies to cultivate trust between police and communities. The timeline may seem impossible, but, sadly, these issues are old and the solutions are well known.

    Dec 11, 2014 Newsweek

  • Young man working at computer outside

    The Realities of Silicon Valley's Lack of Workforce Diversity

    Major Silicon Valley tech firms have released statistics indicating their workforces are largely made up of white men. Corporate America is on the receiving end of a complex chain of social and educational factors that continue to leave minorities behind in terms of college graduation, and both minorities and women behind in terms of STEM degrees.

    Oct 2, 2014 San Francisco Chronicle

  • Pickpocket stealing a woman's wallet

    Crime Victims: Silicon Valley Tech Industry Can Get Them the Help They Need

    A broader approach is needed to better address the needs of millions of American victims of crimes like sexual assault, family violence, financial exploitation, gun violence, identity theft, burglary and stalking. And that's where Silicon Valley's tech community can step up.

    Aug 11, 2014 The Mercury News

  • The Decline of Racial Profiling

    President Obama called the arrest of Professor Henry Gates a "teachable moment." This is a moment to learn the facts of race and policing these days. Racial profiling has indeed been an ugly reality for many years. But our research finds little evidence that it continues to be a major problem, write Greg Ridgeway and Nelson Lim.

    Jul 30, 2009