Our New CEO, Algorithmic Bias, Equity in the Workplace: RAND Weekly Recap


RAND Weekly Recap

August 5, 2022

This week, we discuss building a better future with RAND's new president and CEO Jason Matheny; how to address racial and ethnic bias in health care algorithms; crisis communications between the U.S. and China; how overturning Roe v. Wade could affect pregnant women with substance use disorder; improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace; and tracking extremist activity in Afghanistan.

Jason Matheny, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation; Design by Kekeli Sumah/RAND Corporation

RAND Corporation photo by Diane Baldwin; design by Kekeli Sumah

Matheny Wants to Build a Brilliant Future

Strengthen democracies. Prevent technological disaster. Stop the Truth Decay that's eroding American politics.

Those are some of Jason Matheny's priorities as RAND’s new president and CEO. Despite the gravity of these challenges, he’s cautiously optimistic about humanity’s trajectory. “The future could be really brilliant if we dedicate ourselves to solving the world's most important problems,” he says. “There's no better place to do that than RAND.”

Matheny is a technologist, a futurist, a self-described nerd, and a huge fan of '80s pop music. He has spent his career trying to see what's coming next, from synthetic viruses to artificial intelligence. His pursuit of that goal has taken him from housing projects in Chicago, to villages in India, to the Pentagon and the White House.

As RAND’s new leader, Matheny brings many lessons he's learned along the way. For instance, “the best ideas are going to come from a more diverse group of thinkers,” he says. He's also intent on listening—to researchers, alumni, fans, and critics—and working with them to identify how RAND can make the greatest impact.

“For nearly 75 years, RAND has had an uncanny ability to identify the most important trend lines and play a significant role in helping the world navigate them,” Matheny says. “We now have a moment where we need to think about what will define the next 75 years.”

Young Black man having blood drawn, photo by miodrag ignjatovic/Getty Images

Photo by miodrag ignjatovic/Getty Images

Countering Racial and Ethnic Bias in Health Care Algorithms

Algorithms used in health care decisionmaking can have the unintended consequence of codifying racial and ethnic biases—potentially leading to worse outcomes for patients. According to a new RAND paper, eliminating information about patient race and ethnicity is not the right way to address this problem. Instead, the authors recommend using tools that estimate algorithmic inequities. Doing so could help improve health care algorithms and empower clinicians to reduce bias.

A suited man's hand reaching for the receiver of a red phone, photo by urbancow/Getty Images

Photo by urbancow/Getty Images

U.S.-China Crisis Communications

Tensions between the United States and China ratcheted up this week as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Writing before Pelosi's trip, RAND researcher Lyle Morris and Colonel Kyle Marcrum of the U.S. Army War College considered whether another U.S.-China “hotline” could help de-escalate situations like the one playing out right now. A hotline isn't the answer, they say. Washington is better off reframing how it thinks about crisis management—viewing it as a means of deterrence rather than an instrument to de-escalate tensions.

A concerned young woman looks at a pregnancy test, photo by VioletaStoimenova/Getty Images

Photo by VioletaStoimenova/Getty Images

Post-Roe America: Supporting Pregnant Women with Substance Use Disorders

The reversal of Roe v. Wade has opened the door for more policies that punish pregnant women with substance use disorders. As RAND's Rachel Landis and Laura Faherty and Mishka Terplan of the Friends Research Institute explain, forcing these women to continue pregnancies may exacerbate the increased health risks they already face. It could also make it harder for them to receive treatment for substance use disorder. Evidence suggests that supportive approaches—not punitive ones—will help these women and ultimately save lives.

Four people having a meeting in a conference room, photo by ljubaphoto/Getty Images

Photo by ljubaphoto/Getty Images

How to Create Equitable Change in the Workplace

Despite growing interest in improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, the power structure of many companies remains unchanged. For instance, Black and Indigenous people and other people of color make up just 17 percent of executives. What can be done to address this? Rhianna Rogers, director of the RAND Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy, draws from her research and outlines seven strategies to build truly equitable workplaces, including focusing on education, wellness, and inclusive language.

A Taliban fighter stands guard near the site where Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. strike over the weekend, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 2, 2022, photo by Stringer/Reuters

A Taliban fighter stands guard near the site where Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 2, 2022

Photo by Stringer/Reuters

What the al-Zawahiri Strike Says About America's Deal with the Taliban

Over the weekend, a U.S. drone strike killed al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the last remaining masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks. According to RAND's James Dobbins, al-Zawahiri's presence in Afghanistan highlights how little the United States gained from its 2020 bargain with the Taliban. Going forward, the world is likely to further isolate the Taliban, Dobbins says, making it even harder to track extremist activity in Afghanistan.

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