New behavioral intervention aims to improve research-to-policy translation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Max Crowley, assistant professor of human development and family studies and director of the Penn State Administrative Data Accelerator, has received a $500,000 award from the William T. Grant Foundation to evaluate the impact of behavioral intervention for increasing collaboration between researchers and congressional offices.

The project aims to investigate ways to increase evidence-based policymaking by providing researchers and legislative staff the skills and opportunity to work together on translating scientific findings into effective policy.

Along with Taylor Scott, assistant research professor with the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Crowley will be evaluating the “Research-to-Policy Collaboration” model, developed by Crowley and Scott, within a randomized controlled trial. This model trains researchers in key skills needed to work with legislators and matches them to policymakers for collaboration on relevant policy topics.

“We are excited to test a formal intervention for changing how the research and policy communities interact around scientific evidence,” said Scott.

This project began with a pilot study supported by a seed grant from the Social Science Research Institute through the Strategic Initiatives Seed Grant Program in the Office of the Vice President for Research as well as funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and National Prevention Science Coalition.

“This work applies the same principles we use to change health behaviors to increase productive connections between researchers and legislative staff. The initial institutional support allowed us to pilot the model and be competitive for this new award,” said Crowley.

Recently published findings from that pilot revealed that the intervention can increase researchers’ efficacy for working with legislative offices and may be a cost-effective approach for connecting researchers and policymakers.

Crowley and Scott will also be working with Lauren Supplee and Elizabeth Jordan of Child Trends and Kathryn Oliver in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Department of Sociology and Public Health. Over the next few months they will finalize the planning stage of this project and begin its implementation in January 2019.

This trial will focus on child welfare policy in collaboration with the Penn State Center for Healthy Children. Previous implementations have focused on juvenile justice, drug abuse and health policy topics.

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Max Crowley Taylor Bishop Scott