RAND Commentary Highlights of 2020


Dec 18, 2020

Three events dominated the news in 2020: COVID-19, the U.S. presidential election, and the protests across the country following the killing of George Floyd. But the roughly 400 op-eds and blog posts published by RAND researchers during the year reflected an enormous variety of expertise and perspectives, from remote education to election cybersecurity to the economic harms of racial disparities. Below are 10 highlights, presented chronologically, that landed in high-profile news outlets.

What the G-20 Can Do About Coronavirus

By Charles P. Ries

Published March 29 in The Wall Street Journal

Cooperation among G20 members will prove critical to enabling the world to combat the disease and recover from the economic damage it is causing. The G20, chaired by Saudi Arabia, brings together the countries that can make a difference: China, the United States, major European countries, Russia, Australia, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and South Africa, among others. Communiqués will not be enough, however. Joint actions will be required.

After the Coronavirus: America Needs to Reengage With the World, Not Retreat From It

By Krishna B. Kumar and James Dobbins

Published March 31 in USA Today

The COVID-19 pandemic is bound to raise questions about what direction America should take in the future. Should the United States continue on the path of globalization and become further integrated with the global community, to benefit from resulting gains and collectively solve problems? Or should it make permanent some of the barriers that have been erected to fight the epidemic, whose origins lie on foreign shores, and become less globalized?

As America Reopens, We Need to Offer Caregivers a Lot More Support

By Heather J. Williams and Bobbi Thomason

Published June 4 in CNN Business Perspectives

As some workplaces start to reopen and work-from-home guidelines relax, corporate leaders may hope things will quickly get back to normal. But for employees who are also caregivers, that's likely not going to be the case. In this transitional period of the pandemic, companies should pursue giving caregivers the time they need—particularly in terms of time off—and to create a work culture where they can use it.

COVID-19 Pandemic Run on Guns Underscores the Need for More Research—About Gun Safety

By Andrew R. Morral and Jeremy Travis

Published June 17 in USA Today

Shortages of toilet paper at neighborhood grocery stores have become a symbol of the nation's response to the COVID-19 virus, but recent reports suggest that people also reacted to the pandemic by purchasing firearms and ammunition in massive numbers. What can policymakers do to ensure that a spike in sales doesn't result in more injuries or deaths? Unfortunately, the body of evidence is thin, which leaves lawmakers with limited objective policy guidance. But things are starting to change. Last year, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the first major federal funding for gun policy research in more than 20 years.

National Security and Workplace Flexibility Aren't Incompatible After All

By Lisa Davis

Published July 17 in The Washington Post

When I worked as a civilian at the Pentagon, managers sardonically joked that they supported flexible work arrangements—just as long as we sat at our desks from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in business attire. During the novel coronavirus pandemic, however, flexibility became a matter of survival for all employers—including Defense. Quite suddenly, information technology and human resources departments have kept thousands of national security personnel on the job via home internet connections. The question now is whether the Defense Department will keep these adaptations or go back to its rigid ways.

Too Interconnected to Fail

By Jonathan William Welburn and Aaron Strong

Published July 23 by The Wall Street Journal

The 2007-08 financial crisis made regulators and lawmakers acutely aware that some financial institutions had become too big to fail. The next big economic crisis may arise outside the financial sector, in highly networked companies that are too interconnected to fail. In January, we published a report that examined the connections between all types of enterprises in the U.S. economy. We discovered many nonfinance firms whose failure could cause major economic fallout.

How the COVID-19 Pandemic and George Floyd Protests Could Give Rise to Terrorism

By Brian Michael Jenkins

Published August 16 by NBC News / THINK

Armed conflicts fuel plagues: Until very recently in history, disease killed more people in wars than battle. But plagues can also fuel conflict, and COVID-19 may be no exception. The conditions facing the United States today are reminiscent of those that gave rise to the radicalism of the 1970s and could once again lead to political violence, including terrorism.

There Are Racial Disparities in American Unemployment Benefits. That's by Design

By Kathryn A. Edwards

Published Oct. 3 in the Los Angeles Times

There's a longstanding accusation leveled at the country's unemployment insurance system that has been revived lately—that it's structurally racist, deliberately discriminatory from the outset and remains so today. The claim has been subject to some debate. Is it intentional, or just incidental that that Black workers benefit less? Underlying the debate is a legitimate question: Why doesn't unemployment insurance treat all workers and all earnings the same?

How Biden Can Stop 'Truth Decay' and Restore the Public's Faith in Facts

By Michael D. Rich and Jennifer Kavanagh

Published Nov. 19 by the Los Angeles Times

President-elect Joe Biden has been clear about his agenda: control the pandemic, recover economic stability, advance racial equality, and confront climate change. To accomplish any of these, however, another pressing issue will have to be tackled. The Biden administration must begin rebuilding Americans' trust in their government and public institutions.

Biden's Nomination for New National Intelligence Director Sets the Tone

By John V. Parachini and J.D. Williams

Published Nov. 25 by The Hill

President-elect Biden faces a wide range of policy options once he is inaugurated in January. Among them may be restoring the role of the U.S. Intelligence Community as a valued source of insights to underpin decisionmaking in the White House. As a first step Biden has chosen a new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) who has experience in both the IC and the White House that equips her to lead a renaissance in intelligence affairs.