Distinguished University Professor of Health Science and Policy
University of Pittsburgh
To narrow the gap between science and policy, MIDAS researchers need not only to produce sound results but also to implement sound strategies to assure utility of and access to those results: that is, to support the translation of research to policy. This Policy Studies Component proposes to advance the translation of modeling results and tools to policy making for infectious disease mitigation. We define translation as the use of new knowledge in practice, including policy making. Translation in science is analogous to innovation in management, and diffusion-of-innovation studies suggest an evidence-based foundation for policy translation. Diffusion theory points to the importance of the "weak network": one that features a few nodes whose connections channel an information-exchange between two separate networks. In this Policy Studies Component, we take advantage of existing and new researcher-policy maker collaborations. They connect through weak networks across which the leaders in each exchange information (dissemination) and then serve as implementers within each (diffusion). We propose that the translation of modeling results and tools to public health policy depends on the weak network between modelers and policy makers who use dissemination and diffusion to channel information and feedback. Two Specific Aims will explore whether this proposition is a feasible and revealing framework for the study of policy translation: (1) Engage policy makers in identifying and addressing public health needs for modeling results and tools. This focus is on exploring the problems appropriate for applications of modeling, the optimal construction of models to address users' questions, and the appropriate circumstances for the use of modeling approaches by practitioners and policy makers. (2) Evaluate strategies for translating modeling results and tools into public health policy. This aim will address questions such as: What strategies effectively translate modeling to policy applications? What organizational factors facilitate the adoption of modeling tools and results by policy makers? What characteristics typify the early adopters and thought leaders who encourage further diffusion of modeling? A synthesis of theory, research, and case examples leads to a conceptual model for Policy Studies. This Push/Pull Model is innovative in its combination of dissemination and diffusion strategies and its evaluation methodology grounded in social science. The Push/Pull Model is embedded in the integrated decision support pathway and captures both diffusion theory and the actual researcher-policy maker collaborations existing in MIDAS.