Egg Nutrition Center Blog

Nutrition Science for Policy Making

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Nutrition research informed by policy needs, will have greater impact.

Nutrition and diet policies, like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are based on a body of scientific evidence built from many individual research studies. In a commentary in The Lancet, Drs. Kelly Brownell, from Duke University, and Christina Robert, from Harvard University, advocate for enhancing links between science and policy (Brownell, 2015) citing that “only a small proportion of research has the policy impact it might have.”

“We define strategic science as research designed to address gaps in knowledge important to policy decisions, derived from the reciprocal flow of information between researchers and policy makers…”

They proposed a four-step, reciprocal model to impactful science.

  1. “Identify change agents and create reciprocal information flow between researchers and these actors”
  1. “[D]evelop strategic questions… that need to be addressed for the policy process to be fully informed”
  1. “[U]ndertake strategic studies…” with strategic policy informed questions driving “research designs, hypotheses, and analyses.”
  1. “Shortening the review and publication process … to bring research in step with the real-time needs of policy makers.”

In summary, Brownell and Roberto point out the:

“unrealised potential to contribute to the common good by having the evidence base communicated more effectively to policy makers, and for scientists to be aware of the important questions in the policy world.”

Better interaction between researchers and policy domains would improve the speed by which long-standing, as well as new questions about nutrition and health, are translated into policies and advice for the public. Nutrition researchers can start by informing their research programs based on stated gaps in policy documents, like the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2015.

Brownell, KD and CA Roberto. “Strategic science with policy impact“. The Lancet. February 18, 2015.

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Author: Mitch Kanter, Ph.D.