Factors affecting engagement between academic faculty and decision-makers: Learnings and priorities for a school of public health

Nasreen S. Jessani, Sameer M. Siddiqi, Carly Babcock, Melissa Davey-Rothwell, Shirley Ho, David R. Holtgrave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Schools of public health (SPHs) are increasingly being recognised as important contributors of human, social and intellectual capital relevant to health policy and decision-making. Few studies within the implementation science literature have systematically examined knowledge exchange experiences within this specific organisational context. The purpose of this study was therefore to elicit whether documented facilitators and barriers to engaging with government decision-makers resonates within an academic SPH context. We sought to understand the variations in such experiences at four different levels of government decision-making. Furthermore, we sought to elicit intervention priorities as identified by faculty. Methods: Between May and December 2016, 211 (34%) of 627 eligible full-time faculty across one SPH in the United States of America participated in a survey on engagement with decision-makers at the city, state, federal and global government levels. Surveys were administered face-to-face or via Skype. Descriptive data as well as tests of association and logistic regression analyses were conducted using STATA. Results: Over three-quarters of respondents identified colleagues with ties to decision-makers, institutional affiliation and conducting policy-relevant research as the highest facilitators. Several identified time constraints, academic incentives and financial support as important contributors to engagement. Faculty characteristics, such as research areas of expertise, career track and faculty rank, were found to be statistically significantly associated with facilitators. The top three intervention priorities that emerged were (1) creating incentives for engagement, (2) providing funding for engagement and (3) inculcating an institutional culture around engagement. Conclusions: The data suggest that five principal categories of factors - individual characteristics, institutional environment, relational dynamics, research focus and funder policies - affect the willingness and ability of academic faculty to engage with government decision-makers. This study suggests that SPHs could enhance the relevance of their role in health policy decision-making by (1) periodically measuring engagement with decision-makers; (2) enhancing individual capacity in knowledge translation and communication, taking faculty characteristics into account; (3) institutionalising a culture that supports policies and practices for engagement in decision-making processes; and (4) creating a strategy to expand and nurture trusted, relevant networks and relationships with decision-makers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number65
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 25 2018


  • Dissemination
  • Evidence-informed decision-making
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Knowledge translation
  • School of public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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