Research-to-Policy Collaboration Internship / Practicum

Nov 22, 2017

Graduate Practicum/Internship Title:  Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC) Intern

Name of Organization:  Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University

Purpose & Mission: The Research to Policy Collaboration (RPC) is a model for bridging research and policy, emphasizing partnerships between research experts and legislative staff. This work began with the recognition that direct interaction between researchers and policymakers were needed to support evidence-based policy.  As such, we sought to develop a process that would prepare and connect researchers with existing policy opportunities through which they could initiate working relationships with legislative staff.  While this work grew out of support from the National Prevention Science Coalition, the RPC approach may be applied be applied by a range of organizations and disciplines seeking to strengthen connections between research and policy communities.

Partnerships & Affiliations:  The RPC is currently supported by Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute and Center for Healthy Children. Our approach involves engaging networks of researchers associated with professional and intermediary organizations such as the National Prevention Science Coalition, Society for Community Research and Action, and the Society for Prevention Research. 

Brief Description of Internship/Practicum:                                                                              

This graduate internship or practicum will allow a graduate student to gain hands-on experience applying empirical information to the needs of federal public policymakers. The purpose of this position is to support the Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC) by a) joining meetings with legislative staff and the RPC coordinator, b) organizing requests for research-based information, c) organizing a response to requests using a network-based approach for voluntarily mobilizing research experts, d) contributing to written products such as policy briefs or op-eds, e) contributing to sustainability efforts such as grant writing, and/or f) evaluating and optimizing strategies for infusing research into public policies. Interns are expected to work with researchers who range in career stage and areas of expertise; as such, there are tremendous opportunities for enhancing one’s professional network. Furthermore, interns will have opportunities for developing policy-related experience and a working knowledge of how research-oriented professionals can contribute to the policy process.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the internship or practicum, the student will have been able to:

  • Gain hands-on experience applying research skills or knowledge to contribute to public policy.
  • Demonstrate broad knowledge of how prevention science can benefit society.
  • Discuss rationales for federal policies that are in alignment with scientific evidence, as well as the organization’s mission and goals (e.g., prevention lens). 
  • Apply network outreach techniques in order to strengthen the capacity for response through voluntary contributions.
  • Conceptualize causes for and responses to social issues at multiple levels of analysis (e.g., individual, family, community, institutional, policy), with focus on implications for federal policy.
  • Support and engage in coalition-building efforts, including coordinating working relationships among diverse stakeholders (e.g., research experts, legislative staff), to produce a valued product (e.g., policy brief) or outcome (e.g., Congressional briefing on a given topic).
  • If desired, produce a policy brief summarizing key information on a topic relevant to policymakers, prevention scientists, and society broadly (e.g., child maltreatment prevention), evidence for interventions and policies to promote well-being in that area, and implications for future policy efforts.   

Activities may include:

  • Facilitating connections among researchers to respond to legislative requests for research-based information. This may involve outreach to identify those with subject matter expertise, coordinating meetings to plan collaboration (e.g., facilitating contributions to a policy brief), and/or completing tasks stemming from collaborative activities.
  • Outreach and/or attending meetings with legislative offices, compiling notes, and organizing a response for follow-up. This may be done via phone or in-person, depending on current projects and needs.
  • Outreach and/or attending meetings with partnering organizations or those engaged in relevant advocacy activities to coordinate our response to legislative requests.
  • Reviewing empirical literature to gather information and draft prose for policy briefs or other written products.
  • Research and evaluation that supports replication and/or optimization of the RPC. Current research activities include:
    • Optimizing research dissemination efforts by assessing under what conditions legislative staff are most likely to read emails about research evidence.
    • Exploring how policymakers leverage research evidence in written legislation so that we can draw from those examples in future collaborations seeking to advance the use of research in written law.
    • Evaluating the impact of the RPC on legislative and research participants.
  • Assisting with the development of materials that describe the RPC and ways to get involved.
  • Grant writing and other development activities that support the sustainability of this work.
  • Other activities may be suggested or requested, based on the skill level and interest of the applicant. 

Skills needed by the applicant:

  • Completed pre-requisite coursework in a scientific major emphasizing health and/or behavior
  • Strong research, written and oral communication skills
  • Interest in infusing prevention science in public policy
  • Ability to work with individuals with diverse political ideologies
  • Proficiency in word processing software (e.g. Microsoft word, Excel and PowerPoint) and other software used for publication purposes and database management.
  • Strong time management and organizational skills
  • Strong attention to detail (e.g., entering data accurately, tracking activities and accomplishments, etc.)

Additional Considerations for Applicant Selection:

  • The applicant’s stage of training – applicants nearing the dissertation stage are preferred. 
  • Schedule flexibility – applicants with the most flexible schedules (e.g., few courses) are preferred.
  • Proximity to Washington D.C.; however most of the work is able to be done through telecommuting.
  • Prior U.S. policy experience – applicants who have familiarity with U.S. political processes are preferred.

Supervision will be provided by:  RPC leaders Taylor Scott, Ph.D., the RPC Coordinator and Assistant Research Professor at Penn State University and Max Crowley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University studying the economics of investing in healthy development. Supervision will occur via phone and video meetings; although proximity to Washington, D.C. is beneficial, is not necessary to live in a particular location for this practicum. It is strongly encouraged that candidates also identify a faculty supervisor or mentor at their university.

Anticipated time commitment needed for one student (hours per week): 10-15 hours per week, reported monthly

Compensation:  This is a volunteer position

Expected DURATION of practicum: At least one semester

Application Procedure: Submit a resume or curriculum vitae and cover letter to Taylor Scott at jxs1622@psu.edu. Applications are reviewed twice per year:  June/July and December/January.



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