The End of the Policy Analyst? Testing the Capability of Artificial Intelligence to Generate Plausible, Persuasive, and Useful Policy Analysis

Article by Mehrdad Safaei and Justin Longo: “Policy advising in government centers on the analysis of public problems and the developing of recommendations for dealing with them. In carrying out this work, policy analysts consult a variety of sources and work to synthesize that body of evidence into useful decision support documents commonly called briefing notes. Advances in natural language processing (NLP) have led to the continuing development of tools that can undertake a similar task. Given a brief prompt, a large language model (LLM) can synthesize information in content databases. This article documents the findings from an experiment that tested whether contemporary NLP technology is capable of producing public policy relevant briefing notes that expert evaluators judge to be useful. The research involved two stages. First, briefing notes were created using three models: NLP generated; human generated; and NLP generated/human edited. Next, two panels of retired senior public servants (with only one panel informed of the use of NLP in the experiment) were asked to judge the briefing notes using a heuristic evaluation rubric. The findings indicate that contemporary NLP tools were not able to, on their own, generate useful policy briefings. However, the feedback from the expert evaluators indicates that automatically generated briefing notes might serve as a useful supplement to the work of human policy analysts. And the speed with which the capabilities of NLP tools are developing, supplemented with access to a larger corpus of previously prepared policy briefings and other policy-relevant material, suggests that the quality of automatically generated briefings may improve significantly in the coming years. The article concludes with reflections on what such improvements might mean for the future practice of policy analysis…(More)”.

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