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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tools for Academic Engagement in Public Policy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX


As public policies become increasingly complex and technical in nature there is a clear need for scientifically informed solutions to major public policy challenges. However, most researchers do not have the training to effectively engage with policymakers.

This short course will provide an essential introduction to the policymaking process through the lens of the U.S. federal government, while providing specific steps researchers can take to engage policy stakeholders and articulate the policy implications of their work. Specifically, it will focus on:

  • Understanding the complex public policy ecosystem, its many stakeholders, and the role research and evidence play in the creation of public policy,
  • Strategies for informing the policymaking community with research results,
  • Developing a pitch for policy audiences, and
  • The importance of building two-way dialogues with policymakers


Section I: Overview

  1. Introduction to the course
  2. Ten mistakes scholars make when engaging with policymakers

Section II: The Policy Community

  1. The public policy ecosystem
  2. The Executive Branch
  3. Congress
  4. Congressional 'Asks'
  5. Other Policy Stakeholders

Section III: Strategies for Engagement

  1. Identifying and Prioritizing Stakeholders
  2. Assessing Policy Windows

Section IV: Tactics

  1. Developing a Pitch
  2. Building Relationships with Policymakers
  3. Interview with Professor Lydia Bourouiba

Section V: The Policy Lab

  1. The Policy Lab at the Center for International Studies: A model for enhancing academic engagement in public policy

Taught by

Chappell Lawson and Dan Pomeroy


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