AERA Member Kendrick Davis Provides Tips for Sharing Research with Policy Makers

September 2022

Kendrick B. Davis, who served as an AERA Congressional Fellow in 2018-19, is chief research officer for the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California (USC). Prior to joining USC, Davis served as the vice president for policy research for the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Researchers across a range of fields conduct research they desire to be policy-relevant and put to good use in practice. Below I reflect on a range of experiences in local, state, and federal government and research to offer eight considerations and strategies for sharing and preparing research for policymaking.

  • Staff serve as a useful entry point for research and act as a funnel for the issues that make it on the policy agenda. Contact the staffer who oversees issues related to your research. Communicate a clear description of what you’re hoping to accomplish and how your research might enhance their understanding of a problem and improve potential solutions.
  • Policy makers and staffers are managing an ever-growing and evolving portfolio of issues and efficiency often rules the day. Be clear and concise when drawing connections between your research agenda and their policy goals and aspirations.
  • Attend in-person or virtual public hearings and legislative activities to better understand the relevant policy context and operating conditions through which your research will be viewed, and to directly connect with and make clear to policymakers and staff you are a willing and able resource.
  • Leverage your research agenda to connect complementary policy areas that are within a policymaker’s legislative purview and committees of jurisdiction. Education is not defined by a single policy issue or provision, so it can be helpful to amplify how your research interacts with other priorities, for example criminal justice or economic inequities.
  • Adopt policy makers’ language when describing an issue to reduce the barriers between communication and utility of your research in that space. You may have the same goals but use different language. Review and adapt language from press releases, committee reports, sponsored legislation, and public remarks.
  • If you have already engaged a policymaker or staff on an issue, send periodic updates of new and burgeoning research, within reason, to keep them abreast of major developments and continued entry points for research engagement.
  • Articulate unambiguously what your research says and what it does NOT say. Legislative action at any level goes through multiple levels of review that often ends up distorting or misrepresenting the goals of research during the process. Creating clear boundaries around research use helps mitigate future harm to communities that policies purport to serve.
  • When considering the creation of new laws, policies, and provisions, understand the legislative and regulatory vehicles and mechanisms through which this change occurs to create a tighter nexus between your research and actionable steps. For example, if you’re researching issues of gender equity in intercollegiate sports, you should know the most recent major actions on Title IX and the Higher Education Act Reauthorization to reduce redundancy and identify the truly niche areas of your research that are ripe for policy design and integration.

I welcome your comments and questions. You can connect with me at or @Kbdavisphd.