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A new measure to understand the role of science in US Congress: lessons learned from the Legislative Use of Research Survey (LURS)

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Background: There is growing interest in and recognition of the need to use scientific evidence to inform policymaking. However, many of the existing studies on the use of research evidence (URE) have been largely qualitative, and the majority of existing quantitative measures are underdeveloped or were tested in regional or context-dependent settings. We are unaware of any quantitative measures of URE with national policymakers in the US.

Aims and objectives: Explore how to measure URE quantitatively by validating a measure of congressional staff’s attitudes and behaviors regarding URE, the Legislative Use of Research Survey (LURS), and by discussing the lessons learned through administering the survey.

Methods: A 68-item survey was administered to 80 congressional staff to measure their reported research use, value of research, interactions with researchers, general information sources, and research information sources. Confirmatory factor analyses were conducted on each of these five scales. We then trimmed the number of items, based on a combination of poor factor loadings and theoretical rationale, and ran the analyses on the trimmed subscales.

Findings: We substantially improved our model fits for each scale over the original models and all items had acceptable factor loadings with our trimmed 35-item survey. We also describe the unique set of challenges and lessons learned from surveying congressional staff.

Discussion and conclusions: This work contributes to the transdisciplinary field of URE by offering a tool for studying the mechanisms that can bridge research and policy and shedding light into best practices for measuring URE with national policymakers in the US.


Key messages
  • Demonstrates structural validity of a quantitative measure of policymakers’ use of research evidence;

  • Includes scales that assess mechanisms for bridging research and policy;

  • Illustrates the potential for applying rigorous measurement designs with congressional staff;

  • Discusses specific lessons that can inform successful measurement in the future.
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Keywords: Congress; evidence-based policymaking; survey development; use of research evidence

Affiliations: 1: Pennsylvania State University, USA 2: Virginia Commonwealth University, USA 3: University of Maryland, USA 4: University of Texas Medical Branch, USA

Appeared or available online: March 12, 2021

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UA-1313315-21
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