New survey measures the role of science in U.S. Congress

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There is growing interest in the need to use scientific evidence to inform policymaking. However, many of the existing studies on the use of research evidence have been largely qualitative, and the majority of existing quantitative measures are underdeveloped or were tested in regional or context-dependent settings, according to a recent paper by a research team from Penn State’s Research-to-Policy Collaboration, co-led by Elizabeth C. Long, assistant research professor, Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Center; and Rebecca L. Smith, graduate student in developmental psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University.  

The overarching goal of the study was to explore how to quantitatively measure the use of research evidence with national-level policymakers. To do this, the team developed and validated the Legislative Use of Research Survey, a new measure for use with congressional staff to assess national policymakers’ attitude and behavior toward research use. This survey may be the first quantitative measure of the use of research evidence with national policymakers in the U.S. Congress.  

A 68-item survey was administered to 80 congressional staff using five scales:

  • reported use of research evidence,
  • value of research evidence for policy work,
  • interactions with researchers,
  • general information sources, and
  • research information sources. 

The paper, published in Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, illustrates the potential for applying rigorous measurement designs with congressional staff and includes strategies for increasing the likelihood of receiving survey responses from them.

This project was supported by funding from the William T. Grant Foundation.  

>>> Read the paper here.

People Mentioned in this Article

Elizabeth Long Max Crowley Taylor Bishop Scott