NNI Researcher Receives Fulbright Award to Help Ugandan Lawmakers Better Utilize Data

Feb. 28, 2023
The white building that houses the Parliament of Uganda sits at the end of a busy road at the top of a hill.

The Parliament of Uganda sits at the end of a busy road at the top of a hill in Kampala, Uganda.

Merc Fox has been named as a recipient of a Fulbright Specialist Award for 2023. Fox is the founding director of the Center of Excellence in Data for Society and an investigator on UA’s Ethical and Responsible Research project, which is funded by NSF and led by Stephanie Carroll, the Acting Director of the Udall Center and Associate Director of the Native Nations Institute. Prior to coming to UA, Fox worked at the Library of Congress, first as an archive researcher in the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and then as an expert in the Federal Research Division.

The project comes at the request of the Parliament of Uganda’s Department of Research Services (DRS) in Kampala, which is the Ugandan equivalent of CRS, according to Fox. In that request, DRS asked the Fulbright Commission to recruit an expert from its Specialist roster who could provide technical assistance to Parliament’s Members and policy analysts in creating a system of evidence-based legislation.

Through the month of March, Fox will work in Parliament to evaluate tools, policies, processes, and resources, and make recommendations for modernizing those systems to support evidence-based practices. This move toward modernization is an ambitious and critically important investment in good governance, according to Fox, who further notes that the U.S. has undertaken its own, similar efforts to use data and evidence in its policymaking decisions.

“It's really about making the transition to a culture of shared information,” says Fox. “This is the grand challenge across the globe: to harness all of our data resources and telecommunications capacity in an appropriate and accountable way.”

Not only will this work help lawmakers better use scientific evidence in their decision-making processes, but Fox says that it will also help make the Parliament of Uganda more transparent and, therefore, more accountable to their constituency. 

“The goal of this project is to help Members of Parliament use the evidence they need to do their job,” Fox says, “but the sociotechnical system we develop will be helpful to everybody in society. It will help historians and economists who want to better understand legislative decisions. It will help journalists and researchers understand the context of legislative actions. It will help constituents and civil society understand how their elected Members have served them. It will strengthen the whole system.”

The University of Arizona recently announced the awards of a record-high 17 Fulbright Scholars in 2023. Fox was the only UArizona employee to receive a Fulbright Specialist Award.

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