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Introduction

This guide grows out of the research project “Evidence-based Science Communication with Policymakers” conducted by the four authors and sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the Rita Allen Foundation.

In order to write these recommendations, we spent over a year studying science communication with policymakers from several vantage points. We reviewed hundreds of scholarly works on the topic published in over a dozen fields as well as numerous practical guides written by scientific societies. We interviewed both Democratic and Republican Congressional policymakers, including 22 Members of Congress and 20 staff members.

We also conducted a random-sample survey of over 600 scientist members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In our interviews and survey, we asked individuals to tell us, in their experience, what science communication practices are most, and least, effective.

The recommendations in this guide represent our efforts to distill this research into one brief, useful document. Because our interviews and prior expertise focus on the U.S. Congress, this guide is most relevant to interactions with that body. However, we believe our advice is applicable, with some modifications, to other policymakers as well.

We hope you find this guide helpful as you seek to advocate for the greater use of quality evidence in the policymaking process
One Page Summary (PDF)

We have been privileged to receive assistance from many wonderful organizations and individuals. We want to thank the National Academy of Sciences — particularly Marcia McNutt, Marty Perrault, and Susan Marty — as well as Elizabeth Good Christopherson and others at the Rita Allen Foundation, without whom this project would not have been possible. Thank you to our talented and generous volunteer advisory board: U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), Dominique Brossard, Heather Douglas, Eric Fischer, David Goldston, Arthur Lupia, Michael Oppenheimer, Naomi Oreskes, Wendy Parker, Shobita Parthasarathy, and Tobin Smith.2 Of course, we would be nowhere without our research participants; our deepest thanks to them (who cannot be named due to our promise of confidentiality). We also extend our appreciation to our home institutions — the School of Public Affairs at American University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science — who offered additional resources and flexibility as we devoted many hours to this project. Finally, thank you to the resourceful and skilled AU students and AAAS staff who assisted us: Bella Rafailova, Dakota Strode, Chloe McPherson, and Dana Brandt.

  1. From “Environmental science in a post-truth world.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (15, 1).
  2. Board members provided their recommendations only and are not responsible for specific content.