Machine learning has become an increasingly integral part of public policies. It is applied for policy problems that do not require causal inference but instead require predictive inference. Solving these prediction policy problems requires tools that are tuned to minimizing prediction errors, but also frameworks to ensure that models are efficient and fair. ML4PP will introduce the theory and applications of machine learning algorithms with a focus on policy applications and issues. The goals of this course include:

The course consists of 6 sessions each consisting of a technical introductory lecture and a hands-on application of the topics to a real-world policy problem. Students will be working with the programming language R, but coding is not the primary focus of the course.

To end the course, we will meet online for a Collaborative Policy Challenge, which will be delivered by a colleague from an International Organisation. In groups of interdisciplinary teams, we will provide a possible solution to the challenge, and get feedback from our peers and policy experts.

Course textbook (e-book available for free):

James, G., Witten, D., Hastie, T., & Tibshirani, R. (2021). An Introduction to Statistical Learning

1. Gentle Introduction to R and Rstudio, and Python.

·  Introduction to the course
·  Introduction to the R statistical programming language with the Rstudio IDE
·  Introduction to the Python with Visual Studio Code

Release Date: 30 November 2023

Instructors: Stephan, Alex and Michelle (who will give you a warm welcome!)

Social hours: Monday, 4 December at 6pm CET / 11am GMT-6. Join us online at The ML4PP Gather Town

2. Introduction to Machine Learning for Public Policy

·   Prediction Policy problems
·   Inference vs. prediction for policy analysis
·   Assessing accuracy: bias-variance tradeoff
·   Training error vs. test error
·   Feature selection: brief introduction to Lasso

Instructors: Michelle González Amador



  • An introduction to Statistical learning, Chapter 2, 3 (Regression), 5 (Cross-validation) and 6 (for more about Lasso).

  • Kleinberg, J., Ludwig, J., Mullainathan, S. and Obermeyer, Z., 2015. Prediction policy problems. American Economic Review, 105(5), pp.491-95.

Optional readings

Release date: 7 December, 2023.

Social hours: Thursday, 14 December at 6pm CET / 11am GMT-6. Join us online at The ML4PP Gather Town

3. Classification

·   Logistic regression
·   Confusion matrix
·   Performance metrics: Accuracy, Recall, Precision 

Release Date: 21 December, 2023.

Instructor: Dr. Stephan Dietrich


Social hours: tbd. Join us online at The ML4PP Gather Town

4. Decision Trees

·   Decision Trees
·   Ensemble learning: bagging and boosting.

Release date: 4 January, 2024.

Instructor: Dr. Francisco Rosales

5. Neural Networks

·   The concept of a neuron
·   Network Layers
·   Neural Network Architecture

Release date: 25 January, 2024.

Instructor: Dr. Emanuele Pugliese

6. Fair Machine Learning / Ethics

·   An introduction to Statistical Learning, Chapter 3, 5, 6 8
·   Indicators
·   Black box algorithms
·   Biases
·   Ethical challenges


Release date: 15 February, 2024.

Instructor: Dr. Juba Ziani

Copyright © 2022 Michelle González Amador & Stephan Dietrich . All rights reserved.