Research and policy should go hand-in-hand. With few exceptions, however, the history of research utilization in policy making has been disappointing. Policy makers typically do not have the resources to seek out the growing body of research on the complex issues they face. Instead, they tend to rely on personal impressions or information from special interests that is often fragmented and biased. This practice occurs despite growing evidence that public policy would be more effective if it were based on hard evidence and dispassionate analysis.

How can we better connect researchers and policy makers? One proven, cost-effective, and replicable model was recently named a “Bright Idea” by the Harvard Innovations in Government Program—the Family Impact Seminars (FIS). The FIS are a series of presentations, discussion sessions, and briefing reports that provide state policy makers with objective, high-quality research on timely topics. The six articles that follow were all originally published as policy briefs that were part of the third and fourth annual Massachusetts FIS on “Youth at Risk” convened in spring 2012 and 2013 at the Massachusetts State House. Each seminar featured an expert panel speaking and writing about issues that face today’s youth in the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts seminars are part of a national network of twenty-two sites across the country, all university-based, that are building relationships with and communicating research to state policy makers.



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