Super Session: Interpreting and Translating the Policy Relevance of Research

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Ballroom A & B (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Alexander Bolves, Brown University
Speakers:  Jennifer Doleac, Texas A&M University, Douglas N. Harris, Tulane University, Carolyn J. Heinrich, Vanderbilt University and Kosali Simon, Indiana University

One of the main goals of public policy research is to inform policy and practice. However, academic training focuses almost exclusively on how to conduct research – not on how to interpret its policy relevance or how to translate findings to be widely accessible to those outside academia.  For this super session, we have assembled a distinguished and diverse panel of interdisciplinary scholars who have extensive experience working at the nexus of research and policy.  Together, they will draw on their experiences working with policymakers and practitioners and communicating with the media. 


The moderator will set the stage for the discussion with a brief introduction about the importance and challenges associated with making research relevant.  He will then engage with the panelists, inviting them to respond to the questions below and to each other’s comments.  Our guiding set of questions will include:


  • How do you judge the policy relevance of a research finding?

  • What strategies do you use to translate the importance of a research finding for a broad audience, including those who will potentially use findings to inform practice?

  • What do you think are some of the unique challenges for interpreting and translating research in your discipline?

  • What can scholars, and universities, do to better connect research to policy and practice?

  • How actively should you be looking for current debates in which your research could be useful vs. letting the opportunities find you?

  • How do you balance the importance of engaging with policy with the concern that this may cause you to be perceived as partisan or unobjective?


The panel will conclude with an open-mike session to encourage audience participation and questions.  


Importantly, the interdisciplinary nature of the panel will highlight the commonalities and differences in connecting research with practice across different disciplines.  Our panel includes experts who have conducted cutting-edge research on education, crime, employment, and healthcare.  We expect the session will also surface a range of topics such as evaluating methodological rigor, interpreting standardized effect sizes, conducting cost-benefit analyses, considering the scalability of policy interventions, and thinking about the political contexts that shape how research is applied in practice.  We believe this session will be of broad interest to scholars and practitioners attending APPAM and will provide them with practical insights about how to better relate research findings to policy goals.

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