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The National Science Foundation has awarded Kim Isett, professor in the Biden School, a $300,000 grant to support her new studylaunched on July 15 and funded to run for two years. The research team will examine the kinds, types, and quantity of scientific information that is used by state and local policymakers, and what mechanisms are operating to allow this scientific information to inform policy.
While the challenges of using science in policymaking are well documented, this project examines mechanisms that are operating well at the science and policymaking intersection to understand just how these mechanisms work. The project seeks understand these mechanisms so that they work on a larger scale and/or in more policy areas.
There are two innovations this project is designed to implement. First, state and local policymaking takes center stage. This focus is different than a majority of the existing research that usually focuses on science and Federal policymaking. However, most policy is made at the state and local levels. Therefore, this work will provide an important lens into policymaking that is currently overlooked with regard to the use of science in these contexts. The second innovation is to look at the process through which the science is used, rather than whether or not it was used. To do this the focus is on examining the use of high-quality consensus reports in policy decisions. The consensus reports used here are those produced by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicineconsidered the gold standard of reports of this type.
Through data provided by the National Academies and state and local policy archives, the project traces how and whether specific groups of reports are referenced in state and local policy debates. It also examines whether advocacy organizations who downloaded the reports use them in their testimonies and/or their member communication materials. Through this approach, the project will be able to identify how scientific findings find their way into policymaking via different kinds of intermediaries, rather than the more direct route that is typically described and studied.
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