Policy Research Technology Program

The Center’s Policy Research Technology Program applies the latest technology to build tools and resources to support legal epidemiology research and the effective use of public health law in practice.

Revolutionizing Scientific Legal Research

Scientific legal mapping is at the heart of legal epidemiology — we cannot begin to evaluate laws and policies without knowing where they are, what they say, and how they’ve changed over time. But the tools and resources for organizing and executing that scientific legal research have historically been less than ideal for doing this nuanced work.

Enter: MonQcle. The Center for Public Health Law Research built and maintains this software tool to support teams as they navigate and organize complex legal text to produce legal data for use in research and practice.

MonQcle Software

MonQcle is a one-stop-shop, web-based legal research software used to navigate and organize complex legal texts to produce legal data for research and practice. Using MonQcle, users can identify, code, and analyze laws and policies, then visualize, share, and update their findings all in one place.

Research teams around the world — from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland — use MonQcle to build data. As of October 2022, there were more than 1,000 MonQcle users worldwide.

MonQcle is a “software-as-a-service” platform with tools to create cross-sectional and longitudinal datasets that link text to locations (jurisdictions or other places). The platform applies a question-and-answer framework integrating full pin citations that link each answer to the user-provided text. The service also includes tools to easily facilitate quality assurance processes and reduce human error.

An Eye to the Future: New and Improved Tech for Better, Faster Research

A new version of MonQcle will be released in 2024 that brings policy surveillance into the modern software landscape people have come to expect. The new MonQcle will be responsive, extensible, faster, and more efficient. Leveraging supported and stable open-source projects like Strapi, GraphQL, and Vue.js, the new MonQcle will reinforce the capability our users love while expnding the horizon of what can be done with legal data.

The Center has also teamed with Winder.ai and Source Digital with funding from RWJF to begin to integrate artificial intelligence into MonQcle. Bringing technology assistance into the scientific legal mapping process will make creating legal data more affordable and more accessible. While AI-assisted legal research is still at an early stage, AI-assisted legal coding is already in development. 

Visualizing and Sharing Legal Data with the World

Technology is a powerful tool for supporting complex, interactive data visualizations that bring legal data to life — supporting translation and deeper understanding for more efficient use of the data by researchers, practitioners, policymakers, advocates, and others.

While MonQcle makes it easy and more efficient to build data, and it includes dynamic visualizations, the software’s ability to connect to front-end content management systems like Drupal or Wordpress via API, makes it an invaluable tool for sharing data with the world.

Explore these data websites powered by MonQcle:

  • LawAtlas.org – CPHLR’s flagship scientific legal mapping website; home to more than 140 legal datasets across more than 20 public health topics.
  • PDAPS.org – The Center’s website dedicated to policy surveillance on drug policy issues in the United States.
  • CityHealth.org – An initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, advances a package of evidence-based policy solutions that will help millions of people live longer, better lives in vibrant, prosperous communities. The data are produced and ranked by CPHLR researchers using MonQcle.
  • HIV Policy Lab – Operated by Georgetown University, the HIV Policy Lab online platform systematically gathers and monitors laws and policies adopted by countries around the world, documenting where key HIV science has been translated into policy.
  • Eviction Laws Database – The Legal Services Corporation partnered with CPHLR to build this database to fulfill its Congressionally-mandated work to study the effects of state and local laws on eviction.
  • Healthy Food America Compare Tax Policies – The database includes municipal sugary drink tax ordinance language implemented or pursued in the United States from 2014 through 2016.
  • Infants with Prenatal Substance Exposure, via the Morgridge Institute for Research – This site presents a 50-state analysis of law pertaining to prenatal substance exposure. It is designed particularly for individuals conducting biomedical and behavioral research involving pregnant women and newborns. 

Supporting Research Communities 

In addition to our work developing resources for improved scientific legal mapping, the Center has also used its technology tools and expertise to advance special projects related to legal epidemiology and the use of law and policy to support the public’s health and well-being.

Health Outcome Policy Evaluation Platform (HOPE)

The HOPE Platform is an online community of data, social and policy scientists where each can explore, learn, collaborate and publish datasets and codes in a web-based data-science environment centered on health policy and outcomes. HOPE was originally funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project.