Academic-practice partnerships can enhance the real-world impact of research

CCHRPP faculty member Erika Martin

In the latest issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis & Management, CCHRPP member Erika Martin discusses the role of formative policy evaluation and the value of academic-practice collaborations. Drawing from her CCHRPP-related work on HIV policy modeling in collaboration with the AIDS Institute, she describes how the collaborative process of coproducing evidence led to actionable information on the HIV testing law and the current Ending the Epidemic initiative that the AIDS Institute implemented in practice. She also notes how CCHRPP, with its strong pre-existing partnerships between SUNY researchers and AIDS Institute leadership and staff, was poised to collaborate on scientific studies of COVID-19 using the same principles and relationships that it uses to study HIV and related diseases.

In her articles, she offers several recommendations for how academic researchers can do more publicly-engaged policy evaluation. First, academic researchers should invest in relationships with practice partners to grow a demand for collaboration, accept occasional losses such as projects that might be important for practice but less valued in academia, and become bilingual in the terminology and worldviews of academia versus government agencies. Second, graduate degree programs should provide training in additional collaboration skills such as facilitating stakeholder meetings and navigating conflict. Third, universities and the academic profession more broadly need an institutional commitment for publicly-engaged scholarship such as incentives for such work in the tenure and promotion process.

Martin concludes that practice-oriented research should not replace traditional impact evaluation using rigorous methodologies. However, she argues that, “if policy researchers want to be active participants in evidence-based policymaking, then we should redirect some energy from producing more evidence about program impacts towards implementing strategies that enable us to become effective knowledge brokers.” This vision aligns with the university’s commitment to public engagement.  

Her two articles, “Translating Evidence into Policy Impact: A Call to Action for Formative Policy Evaluation to Promote Evidence-Based Decisionmaking” and “Long-Term Collaborations with Policy Operators Can Facilitate Evidence-Informed Policymaking During a Time of Crisis” are in the journal’s latest issue.