New Research Grants and Capacity-Building Awards

We’re pleased to announce three new research grants in support of our interests in understanding the use of research evidence and in understanding everyday youth settings that affect young people. We’ve also awarded two capacity-building grants that will support connections between research and practice.

“These studies contribute to our efforts to improve the use and usefulness of research,” said Vivian Tseng, Vice President of Program. “Neal, Bayer, and colleagues will focus on the vital role intermediaries play in bridging research with practice. Raudenbush and his colleagues push the boundaries of ‘what works’ studies, expanding our ability to identify what works for whom, under what conditions, and why.”

Applications for research grants are accepted three times per year.

Research Grants: Use of Research Evidence

Intermediaries’ Role in Transferring Research Evidence From “Producers” to “Consumers”: The Case of School-based Programs

Jennifer Watling Neal and Zachary Neal, Michigan State University
September 2014–August 2017

Despite increased demand for evidence-based programs in schools, we know little about how districts acquire, interpret, and use research evidence. In 2011, Neal and Neal received a small grant to better understand who local school district personnel look to for research. They found that school districts have preferences for internal versus external sources of research. External sources consist of a diverse range of intermediaries—organizations and individuals with formal and informal roles related to school districts. In the current study the investigators will examine the conditions under which school districts are more likely to rely on internal versus external sources of research evidence and how different types of intermediaries influence the adoption of evidence-based programs.

The investigators will conduct approximately 400 interviews with administrators from 16 school districts and 75 intermediary organizations in Michigan. They will observe meetings and analyze school documents to gain a better understanding of how research evidence is identified, evaluated, and adopted. The researchers will also map the social networks that link staff through to intermediaries, and where applicable, to researchers. A subset of intermediaries noted will be sampled, interviewed, and shadowed to examine how they transfer information to districts.

What Counts as Evidence for Adolescent Preventive Health Services Policy and Practice? A Study of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Ronald Bayer, Constance Nathanson, Bhaven Sampat, Sandro Galea, and David Johns, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

Some organizations play a critical role in packaging and communicating research to multiple constituencies including practitioners, policymakers and other decision makers. The investigators will study two leading organizations that develop research-based guidelines for pediatric and adolescent physicians: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Both organizations issue recommendations, which are often adopted by policymakers and insurance companies. The researchers will compare six cases: three in which the groups arrived at similar recommendations and three in which they differed. Looking at publications and meeting records, the team will examine how these two intermediaries acquired and interpreted evidence, their internal debates, and the sources of their disagreements. The investigators will also interview 45 key informants, including those leading the syntheses, reviewers of the guidelines, relevant historians, and medical staff from a federal agency with its own evidence center.

Research Grants: Understanding and Improving Everyday Youth Settings

Learning from Variation in Program Effects: Methods, Tools and Insights from Recent Multi-site Trials

Stephen Raudenbush and Veronica Wald, The University of Chicago
July 2014–June 2017

Stephen Raudenbush and Veronica Wald will use data from existing trials of intervention programs to illustrate how the choices made by researchers about the design and sample influence what researchers can learn about variation in program effects.

The investigators aim to develop new strategies and user-friendly software to analyze variation in program effects, how programs operate, why program effects are larger in some settings, and if they affect youth who have not participated in the intervention. They will apply the framework and tools to data from recent multi-site trials of programs that primarily serve youth ages 8-25. The data sets will include evaluations of interventions on after-school instruction, charter school lotteries, job training, and small secondary schools.

Capacity-Building and Communications Awards

Strengthening Connections Between Education Research and Practice in New York City

James Kemple, Research Alliance for New York City Schools, New York University

As part of a consortium of funders, the William T. Grant Foundation will support the Research Alliance for New York City Schools‘ efforts to be a source of high-quality, nonpartisan evidence that helps advance equity and excellence in the city’s public schools. The Research Alliance works with the New York City Department of Education and other stakeholders to identify important questions for research and to provide strong evidence to help solve problems and build capacity in schools.

The Alliance plans to enhance its research productivity and timeliness and to build its communications capacity. More specifically, their goals are to execute fast-response research that addresses emerging policy questions, effectively communicate with key stakeholders about the findings from studies, maintain longitudinal data archives to support rigorous research, and raise their profile and visibility.

Bridging Research, Practice, and Policy

Thaddeus Ferber and Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom, The Forum for Youth Investment

An important component of the Foundation’s work is to deepen and foster communication, learning, technical assistance, and connections between researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and funders. The Forum for Youth Investment is our partner in planning and facilitating these meetings. Thaddeus Ferber and colleagues draw on their relationships in the policy world and expertise in youth development to maximize each meeting’s value.

In the coming year, the Forum will organize a capstone meeting for our research-practice partnership learning community and develop a website to share resources on building and maintaining successful collaborations. Forum staff will also organize meetings focused on the use of research evidence in policy and practice; mentoring and career development for young scholars of color; and federal research and evaluation work.

The Forum for Youth Investment has maintained a strong collaborative relationship with the Foundation since 2001, responding to the evolving needs of grantees and the field at large.

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