Background: Much policy-relevant research is produced by academic institutions such as universities. However, the onus of ensuring it influences policy often rests on the researcher. Placed traditionally at the research side of the paradigm, academia perhaps serves an untapped role as a knowledge broker to bridge the evidence-policy divide.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to understand the facilitators and barriers that affect academic faculty at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), USA to engage in the evidence-to-policy process at various government levels.
Methods: Between May and December 2016, 211 (32%) of 651 eligible full-time faculty across all 10 departments at JHSPH participated in a survey focused on various aspects of engagement with decision makers with one section specific to facilitators and barriers. Surveys were conducted face to face or via skype. Descriptive data as well as tests of association using STATA informed our results.
Results: More than three quarters of respondents identified colleagues with ties to policy makers, being affiliated with JHSPH, and conducting policy-relevant research as the highest facilitators. Several respondents identified time constraints, academic incentives and financial support as important factors. Preliminary analyses show statistically significant associations between departmental affiliation and whether departmental culture and knowledge-translation skills were facilitated.
Conclusions: The data suggest that individual, institutional and network factors affect the willingness and ability of academic faculty to use their knowledge and expertise to encourage and influence evidence-informed decision making (EIDM). Academic institutions such as JHSPH should a) periodically undertake such pulse-checks within their institutions; 2) enhance individual capacity strengthening in knowledge translation and research communication; 3) institutionalise a culture of EIDM that considers academic incentives for decision-maker engagement; and,4) create a deliberate strategy to expand and nurture trusted, relevant networks and relationships with decision makers.