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Policy Brief

Following the rules: Connecting academic research to policy

Published: December 2023
Universities across the country are renewing their missions toward making a public and civic impact. While academics are producing policy-relevant research, advising government agencies, and contributing to policy debates, their work can even more directly shape policy through the federal regulatory process. Often dominated by lobbyists and those with a financial stake in the regulation’s outcome, there is a thirst — and a need — for objective scholarship in this space.

The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and the Tobin Center for Economic Policy at Yale University are working together to make it easier for academic research to play a role in the regulatory process. This policy brief describes how policy is made through regulation, the value that academic research can bring to the process, barriers that prevent participation, and ways that academic institutions and federal agencies can help overcome them.

Key Takeaways:

  • Academic research can have an important impact on policy through the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, but participation among academics is low.
  • We provide a series of recommendations for academic institutions and federal agencies to support academic engagement in policies impacted by federal regulations.
  • These recommendations include developing infrastructure for tracking relevant regulatory actions; providing analytic and drafting/editing support to help produce comments; and innovating incentive structures that can reward academics for public policy engagement.
  • Federal agencies can help encourage involvement by academics by standardizing citations of research and public comments in regulations and committing resources to outreach and communication of upcoming regulatory actions.
  • These efforts will help bridge the gap between research and policy and improve the likelihood that policymaking reflects the best available evidence while also helping universities fulfill their mission to increase public impact.