Effective communication with policymakers and practitioners takes a unique skillset, and many scientists may not feel they have the tools to get started. FABBS has compiled and developed these resources to help researchers engage with policymakers and translate their work for a broader audience. As a great starting point, check out the Scholars Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Communicating Research Clearly to understand how to best connect research to policy and practice
Learn more about how to:
- Connect to Congress
- Communicate with Federal Agencies
- Draft Policy Briefs
- Write and Place an Op-Ed
- Raise the Profile of Behavioral Science on Campus
Connect to Congress
It is crucial to first understand Congress. The Senate, made up of 100 members with two individuals from each state, deals with the responsibilities of confirming high-level positions, appointing members to various Congressional committees, and ratifying treaties. The House of Representatives has 435 members and takes on the responsibilities of choosing the President in the case of an electoral college tie, as well as initiating Congressional spending. Congressional members form committees and subcommittees around different areas of policy and expertise. Learn more from our Advocacy Handbook.
Find members of Congress who share your interests and priorities, committee and caucus memberships, and important constituencies. Establish contact with your member through brief emails, engage with your member’s office on social media, call your member’s office, or meet with your member in person. If you meet with your member in person, conduct the meeting in a policy-neutral manner, and do not vilify opponents or opposing viewpoints. Communicate with transparency, be flexible, and actively listen when collaborating with policymakers to build meaningful relationships. After all, policymakers seek evidence and research from trusted partners.
Check out the Scholars Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Writing Useful Policy Talking Points to learn how to communicate with Congress clearly and confidently and start building relationships with policymakers. Or, consider joining the Research to Policy Collaboration, which can help connect policymakers to researchers with relevant expertise.
- Additional trainings and resources from the Research to Policy Collaboration
- Join the Congressional Science Policy Initative from the Federation of American Scientists for opportunities to provide hearing questions and provide feedback on legislation.
- Watch: Connecting Research to Policy at the Nexus of Health and Education
- Read: Supporting the integration of evidence into federal educational policy and reform efforts: A navigational framework for educational researchers
- Advocacy Training from the Congressional Management Foundation
- Federation of American Scientists Playbook for Contributing Science to Congressional Hearings
Communicate with Federal Agencies
Communicating with federal agencies is similar to connecting with Congress. Find your allies, and treat policymakers as your partners in working toward a mutually beneficial goal. Build rapport with agency staff and develop productive, ongoing relationships with civic leaders at the agency level. Consider serving on review panels or expert commissions for greater influence, such as more input in what research is funded, and to become a reliable and familiar partner when agencies seek opinions on social policy.
Explore the Federal Register, the daily journal of the US government. The Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, along with executive orders and other presidential documents. It was developed with the goal of helping citizens understand the regulatory process and participate more readily in government decision-making.
Check out the Scholars Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Writing Influential Policy Fact Sheets to understand how to compel action from federal agencies.
Draft Policy Briefs
Policy briefs are an excellent relationship-building tool, and generating conversation with civic leaders is always the first priority in public scholarship efforts. When drafting a policy brief, target a specific audience of policymakers based on shared interests and priorities, and identify which agencies carry out policies in your area of knowledge.
Regardless of your audience, avoid highly technical terminology, reference lists, and long documents. Your policy brief should be one to two pages with clear section titles and embedded links. Consider asking non-professionals, like your family and friends, if your policy brief is easy to understand. You can also send your policy brief to the Scholars Strategy Network to be reviewed!
Check out the Scholars Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Writing an SSN Research Brief to learn more about writing a brief. Having trouble identifying a target audience, laying out action items, or generally looking for one-on-one help with the specifics of your brief? Contact the Scholars Strategy Network or Contact FABBS.
- Examples of Policy Briefs from the Society for Research in Child Development
- Day One Project – Policy brief examples and opportuinities
- How to Write a Health Policy Brief, courtesy of the Society for Health Psychology Health Policy Council
Write and Place an Op-Ed
Op-eds can reach stakeholders and policymakers, direct attention to relevant research, reframe a narrative in the media, produce shareable content, and build a public brand. For your op-ed to fulfill one of these purposes, first consider the central message of your piece and determine the right audience for the topic of the discussion.
Craft a timely hook; the hook does not have to be timely at the present moment, so consider addressing future exigencies, such as an upcoming Supreme Court decision. Incorporate narratives and personal stories to establish your credibility beyond the academic realm and make the op-ed’s content interesting to lay audiences.
Fill your op-ed with punchy language and powerful topic sentences and utilize embedded links to provide your audience with additional information; avoid dense jargon and in-text citations. Your op-ed is most effective if it is around 750 words.
Check out the Scholar’s Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Writing Compelling Op-Eds for further information on how to use your opinions to generate action.
- Additional resources, advice, and examples from the Op-Ed Project
- The Conversation: “Academic rigor, journalistic flair”
- Social Science Space – From SAGE publishing, blogs and discussions from key players in social science.
Raise the Profile of Behavioral Sciences on Campus
If you are a scholar seeking to elevate the sciences of the mind, brain, and behavior, discovering opportunities for collaboration is crucial. Work proactively to facilitate communication between researchers and university colleagues focused on public engagement, such as university government affairs faculty or offices of research and community relations.
It is important to know the role each office plays and where they may or may not be able to help. Organize “speed dating” events to connect researchers and policymakers, enabling two groups who may not otherwise cross paths to connect with brief discussions. Regularly meet with prospective hires to direct attention to the research agendas of departments and demonstrate university commitment to, and interest in, psychological sciences on campus.