Substance misuse is a major threat to public health.
Evidence-informed policies that prevent substance misuse offer tremendous value for governments seeking to improve quality of life and reduce mortality. State legislatures are key decision-makers who have a significant role in directly and indirectly shaping the substance use prevention and treatment landscape. However, there is a gap in the systematic integration of robust prevention research into the policymaking process.
With this project, we will test the Research-to-Policy Collaboration with 30 U.S. state legislatures to test the model’s ability to improve engagement between state policymakers and the prevention science community, build policymakers’ awareness and value of substance misuse prevention research, and subsequently their use of research evidence throughout the policymaking process.
Our Research-to-Policy Collaboration brings together research professionals and legislative officials to support evidence-based policy using this approach:
- Identify legislative priorities and opportunities for leveraging research-informed strategies through interviews with legislative staff.
- Bring together a Rapid Response Network comprised of individuals with research expertise related to legislative priorities.
- Support legislative offices by coordinating a response to legislative needs or inquiries.
We will use a randomized controlled trial (15 intervention and 15 control state legislatures) to evaluate the model’s ability to:
- improve engagement between state policymakers and the prevention science community,
- build policymakers’ awareness and value of substance misuse prevention research, and
- increase the use of research evidence throughout the policymaking process.
Our certified policy associates will interact with state legislatures and prevention researchers to implement the Research-to-Policy Collaboration model in sampled states. Prevention research centers may further support the project by facilitating connections with researchers and collaborating on policy activities as time allows. The Rapid Response Network will comprise researchers with expertise in substance misuse prevention from across the nation.
We’ll also analyze the state legislatures’ historical and current use of research evidence in substance misuse prevention — to stratify our sample to gain additional insights into how the model is working in varied legislative contexts across the states. Further, our unique research design will allow us to account for social diffusion of evidence within states, given that policymakers work together to produce legislation.
We tested the Research-to-Policy Collaboration model with members of Congress in 2019 and found that facilitating researcher-policymaker interactions in rapid response processes can influence both how legislators think about policy issues and how they draft legislation. Now, we have an opportunity to test the model in state governments in a specific area of need, since our earliest pilot interviews suggest low awareness of prevention research among policymakers.
Ultimately, we are building knowledge about the extent to which researchers can facilitate lawmakers’ understanding of prevention, leading to research application in state-level policies intended to prevent substance misuse.