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Communicating Research to Policymakers: Researchers' Experiences

  • June 2014
  • Report
Marlene Lee & Kate Belohlav

Some common challenges arise in bringing research to policymakers. Researchers have difficulty communicating their findings in ways that policymakers can easily understand. Many researchers struggle to identify and relay actionable messages to policymakers and to select advocates or other intermediaries to communicate these messages.

University norms, such as criteria for academic promotion, also pose a challenge in moving research from academic journals and universities to policymakers: Most academic researchers are evaluated by the number of articles they publish and the journals in which they publish, not by the number of policymakers they influence. As a result, these researchers often cannot dedicate the time necessary to disseminate their findings to nonacademic audiences.

Timing is another issue: The priorities of researchers and policymakers may conflict with one another. Research initiatives often take several years to execute, complete data analysis, and develop findings, while policymakers might not hold office for the duration of the research process. Problems also arise when research findings conflict with already established programs and priorities. In this case, decisionmakers may not trust the findings, or simply may not be interested in pursuing them.

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