Month: January 2018

New Policy Bridge Series in Duke Today

As part of Policy Bridge’s mission to connect Duke researchers with policymakers, we’ve launched a new series in Duke Today highlighting policy engagement efforts led by faculty and researchers across campus. The inaugural article highlights research scientist Katie Rosanbalm, who works with schools and child services agencies across North Carolina to better identify and treat children affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). From focus groups with care providers to collaborations with nonprofits, Rosanbalm’s community-based research is already seeing results. One pilot program in Rowan County has resulted in fewer hospitalizations and crisis center services requested since its inception four years ago.

Would you like us to highlight your research in the next installment? To inquire about our engagement story series, email

Policy Engagement Training

Organized by the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN), in partnership with the William T. Grant Foundation, this interactive workshop provides researchers and data scientists the opportunity to learn best practices for developing reciprocal relationships with civic intermediaries and policymakers. In the pursuit of its mission to bridge the gap between universities and the policy process, the network has identified the knowledge and skills that researchers need to use their expertise more effectively in the policy realm. The centerpiece is an approach that emphasizes relationships and research-practice partnerships between academics and practitioners, rather than the traditional model of one-way information dissemination.

This workshop aims to provide concrete tools to empower researchers to foster long-term, reciprocal relationships with policymakers. These relationships — which are most formally organized as research-practice partnerships, but can take many other forms — have the potential to address policy crises and opportunities when they arise, as well as to promote policy improvement over the long-run. Skills taught in the training include: how to develop ongoing, reciprocal, trusting relationships with policymakers and civic intermediaries; how to assess policymakers’ resources, needs, and opportunities; the timing of the policy-making process; how to make effective use of intermediary groups; how interaction with policymakers can help researchers determine better research questions; and how ongoing policy engagement can be a part of researchers’ academic success.

Co-hosted by Duke Policy Bridge


Date: Friday, March 30th

Time: 8am-3pm


Open to doctoral students, post-docs, research associates, and faculty.

Applications will be accepted until 8:00am EST Tuesday, February 13th. We will notify applicants of their admission status by Monday, February 19th.

Duke Professor Uncovers Gerrymandering

Chair of Duke’s Math Department and North Carolina native, Professor Jonathan Mattingly, has changed the course of the state’s history with his data-driven research on gerrymandered districts. Earlier this month, a panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts as unconstitutional gerrymanders created to disproportionately benefit the Republican party – and they cited Mattingly’s research in the lead opinion.

By creating thousands of simulations of possible districts – and applying a host of other statistical techniques – Mattingly works with a team of Duke students to understand if real-life congressional districts were shaped to favor one political party over another, i.e. if they have been victims of gerrymandering. The group’s work is part of the Data+ program, a 10-week summer research experience for Duke undergraduates interested in tackling interdisciplinary challenges through data analysis, just one initiative of the overarching Information Initiative at Duke. Check out the team’s website for more details about the diagnostic tool they use to quantify gerrymandering in North Carolina and seven other states (Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin).

Mattingly’s research is actively influencing the future of politics in North Carolina, although the case’s resolution is not yet clear. The federal panel of judges that declared the districts unconstitutional had ordered the NC General Assembly to enact a remedial plan by January 24th. On January 18th the Supreme Court agreed to freeze the lower court’s opinion, most likely delaying political justice for another election cycle.

Research to Action: Prison Reform

Researchers at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy released a report in December reviewing nationwide prison management practices and providing specific recommendations for the state’s prison systems. In the wake of an investigative series in the Charlotte Observer detailing serious violations within the state’s prisons, the NC Governor’s Crime Commission had tasked Duke researchers with finding potential solutions to an intransigent problem: prison staffing and security.

Lead researcher and recent Sanford graduate, Caitlin Saunders, joined Joel Rosch, senior researcher and policy liaison for the Center for Child and Family Policy, in a recent podcast summarizing their key findings. After an extensive literature review, interviews with national organizations and in-depth interviews with seven state-level prison systems, the researchers ultimately came up with three broad categories of recommendations for the state of North Carolina: invest in personnel, establish a cohesive organizational culture, and improve facility safety.

In speaking with prison administrators across the country, Caitlin and her team found that the issues North Carolina faced in hiring, screening, training and retaining correctional officers were ubiquitous. One surprising finding: hiring and retaining staff in prisons isn’t all about the money. In fact, according to Caitlin, states with the highest salaries don’t have the lowest vacancy rates precisely because employees care more about their workplace environment, professional development opportunities, and feelings of efficacy than their paycheck alone.

The report was also highlighted on January 9th on the news show Capital Tonight and will serve as a tool for policymakers as they look to reform North Carolina’s prison systems.

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