Bridging policy research and implementation science

April 25, 2023


Beth McGinty, PhD
Weill Cornell Medicine

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Policy implementation is a key but often-ignored aspect of policy effectiveness. Public policy research typically considers the effects of having versus not having a policy on outcomes, without considering whether and how the policy was implemented – even though the effects of policies on their intended outcome depend upon degree of implementation. Experimental approaches to studying policy dissemination and implementation are challenging, given that policies are difficult to randomly assign, but not impossible. Natural experiments in policy implementation abound, as states, localities, and organizations consider, adopt, and implement – with varying degrees of implementation success, and intensity – a range of policies over time. Rigorous nonexperimental methods for studying policy dissemination and implementation in these types of natural experiments are critical, but methodological advances are needed. This presentation will motivate the importance of studying policy implementation, provide examples of current approaches, and discuss promising future directions.