Duke Student Government is aiming to tackle prominent campus issues from a new perspective.

DSG recently announced the creation of the Duke Student Government Research Unit, a project designed to quantitatively review different facets of student life. The brainchild of DSG Executive Vice President Abhi Sanka, a junior, the unit aims to harness the power of statistics in order to answer some of the most pressing campus issues.

“There wasn’t enough data in everyday discussions which were based upon qualitative observations," Sanka said. "We didn’t have reports behind the decisions we made and so I felt this void needed to be filled with a policy making process that included statistical evidence and data to make decisions."

At the beginning of each semester, the DSG Senate will discuss relevant campus issues and commission a set of projects to be overseen by DSGRU. As the semester progresses, the unit will develop study methods to answer and tackle these questions. After receiving Senate approval for these methods, the unit will collect data and then implement the research techniques, providing final analysis reports to the Senate. Sanka said the Senate plans to commission the first set of questions by early October.

DSGRU will consist of a 5-15 member committee and a director in charge of project oversight. The director will be selected by Sanka through an application and interview process and the steering committee will be selected in a similar manner.

“We’re looking for students who have quantitative skills and have applied these skills in real-world research settings," Sanka said. "We want students who can use these skills to solve real world data based problems, who know how to work in a team and are goal-oriented," Sanka explained.

DSG President Lavanya Sunder, a junior, noted that the establishment of the research unit will provide a unique opportunity to add justification to campus policies.

"As a Statistics major, I've always been interested in data analysis, but never been able to find a way to institutionalize large, comprehensive campus surveys. That's why I think that that DSGRU is going to be such an amazing addition to DSG," Sunder wrote in an email Tuesday. "DSGRU will help us finally be able to answer the overarching campus questions that we ask all the time."

Sanka added that the idea for this research model stemmed from his experience at the National Academy of Sciences, an institution commissioned by Congress to complete governmental projects.

"As a public policy major and as a member of student government, this model of evidence-based decisions making struck me," Sanka said. "I felt that we didn't have something like this.”

Sanka said people have generally been receptive to the concept of the unit and the resolution passed unanimously in the Senate. He emphasized the unit's ability to confront persistent issues such as the efficiency of the dining system.

"I want DSGRU to provide Student Government representatives with ammunition to tackle these big picture problems," he said.