Testing Research Communication Strategies and Impact among Policymakers to Reduce Inequalities Precipitated by COVID-19

Can a research communication intervention increase policymakers’ use of research evidence to improve the lives of youth and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical for scientists to communicate with policymakers about strategies for reducing intersecting axes of inequity in the academic, social, behavioral, or economic outcomes of youth and their families. The Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC), a theory-based, replicable model that supports policymakers’ use of research evidence, has extensive experience supporting nonpartisan communications and facilitating scientist-policymaker interactions. An ongoing double randomized control trial of the RPC with all 535 federal congressional offices, funded by the Foundation, has yielded promising preliminary findings. The current study will examine the impact of a dissemination approach, using rapid cycle randomized controlled trials to test research communication strategies that enhance access to relevant research and evaluate the potential impact of enhanced dissemination on evidence use in legislators’ child and family policy activities. All congressional offices were randomized into experimental (RPC) and control (no RPC) groups for the ongoing RCT. The team will expand upon this original design and explore effective research communications strategies and the impact of an enhanced dissemination approach across three study groups: Group 1 Dissemination and Interaction; Group 2: Dissemination-Only; and Group 3: No Dissemination. In addition to federal legislative staff, state legislators not involved in the current RPC implementation or evaluation trial will receive the enhanced dissemination. They will be sampled at random to receive the enhanced dissemination of research messages or not. Client Relationship Management software will be used to send research via email, monitor access, and provide data on legislative activities. Message open- and click-rates will be tracked for two weeks after dissemination. Experimental dissemination group offices will be further randomized into different messaging conditions to test different email subject lines. Logistic regressions will model the change in the odds of opening the email and clicking embedded links.