Bridging the research–policy divide: Pathways to engagement and skill development.

Researchers generally engage in few interactions with policymakers, which limits the extent to which empirical evidence is used to guide public policy and, consequently, the potential effectiveness of public policies in improving societal wellbeing. Although many researchers wish to see their work used for social impact, several factors contribute to researchers’ limited policy engagement, including a lack of opportunities for developing policy competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy that support effective policy engagement) and limited support or incentives from research, training, and philanthropic institutions. Moreover, despite work that shows that researchers are more likely to engage in policy when they report greater policy competencies, little descriptive or evaluative research has explored the effectiveness of policy training. The current work seeks to expand the limited empirical base by drawing connections between training approaches and conditions that support policymakers’ use of research evidence. Policy training approaches that combine direct instruction (i.e., information-based, often didactic teaching via classes) and experiential learning (i.e., skills and knowledge obtained through active engagement, hands-on application) appear most promising. Various pathways for policy training are described, and one specific policy training and engagement strategy is further described alongside evaluation data regarding benefits associated with direct instruction and experiential learning approaches. We conclude with recommendations to strengthen researchers’ policy competency development and engagement. These recommendations range from increasing access to training opportunities to adjusting institutional incentive systems that currently hinder researchers’ policy engagement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)