The Inception and Impact of Researcher-Policymaker Relationships

Does a light-touch intervention to connect county legislators with research and researchers improve their use of research evidence?

There are over 3,000 county-level governments in the United States, and they hold substantial authority over matters that affect youth. But county-level policymakers often have limited time and staff support to access research evidence. Levine’s study will use a two-stage randomized cluster design to test: 1) the efficacy of providing social cues within emails to encourage legislators to engage with researchers and 2) whether personalized outreach from researchers in combination with tailored research briefs make it more likely that legislators use research evidence. In the first phase of the project the team will include 400 county legislators who serve on committees relevant to youth issues within 56 New York counties (excluding New York City and Tompkins County). The legislators will be assigned to one of three outreach conditions: baseline message, social cue message (i.e. email references other county legislators who have used research support in the past), or enhanced relevant message (i.e. email includes specific examples of how research has been helpful to county legislators in the past). The first phase will measure whether legislators take up the offer to connect. The second phase of the project will include the legislators who take up the offer in Phase 1. Those legislators will be randomly assigned to receive either tailored research briefs only or tailored research briefs in combination with an offer of a personal phone call to discuss the relevance of the research to the legislator’s context. The second phase of the project will test whether legislators refer to content of the research briefs in subsequent legislative meetings, how evidence is used (e.g. instrumentally, conceptually, or tactically), and the outcome of the effort (e.g. motion passes, agenda shifts).

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