Connecting researchers and legislators can lead to policies that reflect scientific evidence

Like most kids of the 1990s, I attended a school that used the original DARE program as a cornerstone initiative in the war on drugs. Congressional funding for this Drug Abuse Resistance Education program surged to over US$10 million per year by 2002, despite studies published in the prior decade demonstrating the original program was ineffective at preventing substance use. Following mounting political pressure and declining government investments, the DARE program was retooled.

This scenario exemplifies how a disconnect between research-based information and decision-making can lead to ineffective policies. It also illustrates why scientists often bemoan that it can take over a decade before their work achieves its intended public benefit.

Researchers want the results of their studies to have an impact in the real world. Policymakers want to make effective policies that serve the people. The public wants to benefit from tax-funded research.

But there’s a disconnect between the world of science and the world of policy decision-making that keeps information from flowing freely between them. There are hundreds of evidence-based programs that receive minimal public investment despite their promise to curb social ills and save taxpayer dollars.

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