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Taking Science to Capitol Hill: Evidence-Based Science-Policy Partnerships

Entry Author:
Gabriel Velez, Ph.D.

Marquette University





The pandemic has exacerbated existing human rights issues, necessitating broad structural reform. One way to achieve such reform is by bolstering relationships between scientists and policymakers, but existing efforts to do so are rarely evaluated rigorously. This interactive plenary session detailed three communication strategies that have been empirically shown to improve legislators’ research engagement: being an “honest broker,” effectively establishing credibility, and using storytelling to convey research. Attendees were guided through drafting a fact sheet outline and email for distribution to policymakers. By using evidence-based strategies for improving engagement, the goal was for attendees to increase their impact by supporting policymakers’ research use.





  • Research-to-Policy Collaboration’s main goal is to facilitate trust and productive relationships between researchers and policymakers.
  • Three main foci of the session were: 1) how can I write my research as an engaging story; 2) how do I present my possible solutions; and 3) what can I do to make sure that my factsheet is received well?
  • It is important to situate your work within a broader issue, and to consider what piece are you contributing, as well as what your audience’s needs and perspectives are.
  • The human brain can only absorb about three to five pieces of information at a time, and so it is important when you are communicating with a policymaker to really prioritize what you share based on what they need to know and how you can best connect with them based on common interests and shared values.
  • When working with policymakers, it is important focus on the positive results of acting; for example, being clear about who are going to benefit and what the concrete and evidence-based solutions are.
  • Another way to establish credibility is to show that you know how to interact with policymakers, being attentive to norms like presenting information that can be scanned quickly.



  1. Effective science communication requires recognizing those differences between how scientists or researchers have traditionally been taught to communicate their research, and then how the rest of the world communicates.
  2. To communicate effectively to an audience outside of your specific research field, a typical scientific strategy needs adaptation based on defining what or who you are trying to influence.
  3. In working with policymakers, it is important to remember that they have information overload, use different information sources, and have a broad but shallow understanding due to constraints on their time and the need to make decisions quickly.
  4. Stories and anecdotes are powerful; narratives or stories are easier to comprehend, especially when they are based on local data that can speak directly to their constituencies.
  5. Human touch and personalization are important when you are building congressional relationships.


Key Words

  1. Policymakers
  2. Communicating research and science
  3. Narrative
  4. Tips and strategies