Impact of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration Model: Testing an Approach to Improve the Use of Evidence

Can structured collaboration between researchers and policymakers improve federal legislators’ use of research pertaining to children and families?

Crowley and colleagues will evaluate whether the Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC) Model, a highly-structured and intensive collaboration between researchers and policymakers, improves legislators’ use of research in policy activities related to child maltreatment. The RPC is a manualized intervention implemented by an intermediary organization that works with legislative staff to identify priorities and develops a rapid-response researcher network with relevant expertise. The intermediary trains researchers to strengthen their interpersonal and communication skills and then convenes an event to initiate collaboration, present initial research about the short-term legislative need, and plan next steps. RPC staff, researchers, and legislative staff then determine additional activities to support a policy response, which may involve soliciting consensus from peers or developing materials for legislative testimony or language, and reviewing legislative language. Few studies have examined replicable mechanisms to facilitate researcher-policymaker contact in ways that improve legislators’ use of research, but an evaluation of the RPC pilot demonstrated feasibility. The team will now test the effectiveness of RPC using a double-random assignment design: both the federal legislators and researchers will be randomly assigned to either RPC intervention or comparison groups. The team will survey congressional staff to assess their attitudes and reported use of research evidence, their evidence sources, and frequency of interactions with researchers. Researchers will be surveyed to assess their knowledge of the policy process, and to identify ways that they engaged with policymakers in developing research questions, considering implications, and communicating findings. The team will quantify research use in interactive discourse, legislative language, and public statements, including how policymakers think about child and family issues, rationalize policy decisions, or create federal investments. To assess perceptions and experiences of collaboration, the team will also interview and observe participants.