Author: Colleen Cox (Page 1 of 2)

Science Policy Careers for PhDs Panel

Science Policy Careers Panel for PhDs

Join Duke INSPIRE and other graduate students for a panel discussion with Duke science doctoral degree alumni who have chosen policy career paths in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The alumni panel will address non-academic careers in public policy and the paths that lead them to their current roles. A networking session with drinks and hors d’oeuvres will follow the hour-long panel discussion.

Sponsored by Duke Policy Bridge, The Graduate School, the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education, and Duke INSPIRE

Alumni Panelists:

  • Barbara Natalizio,  Program Officer, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
  • Adria Wilson, Program Manager, US Department of Energy
  • Heather Dean, Biomedical Engineer, US Food & Drug Administration
  • Jeremy Block, Managing Partner, Venture Catalyst
  • Dave Catarious, Senior Advisor for Cyber Policy, US Department of Energy

Moderated by Amy Hafez, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology PhD ’18


Date: Tuesday, April 24th, 2018  5pm-7pm

Location: Rubenstein Library, Holsti-Anderson Room


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


In addition to this event, Duke provides ongoing opportunities to learn about careers at the nexus of science and policy through SciPol ( at the Initiative for Science & Society. Visit to learn more about upcoming events like our Science Policy Happy Hours, the SciPol Summer Institute, and the Doctoral Summer Academy course in Science Policy. Follow us on Twitter @DukeSciPol!


Duke Expert Discusses Racial Disparity in School Discipline

Last Saturday, Duke professor Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards joined Wake County Board of Education member Keith Sutton on the April 24th airing of Education Matters. The conversation centered around a particularly troubling problem in North Carolina, and indeed nationwide: African American students get suspended more frequently, and for longer periods of time, than their peers. Even more alarming is that the discipline disparity starts as early as pre-kindergarten.

While the problem is well documented, more resources are required to start tackling the discipline disparity in a meaningful way. Dr. Bentley-Edwards reminded viewers that the underlying problem is one of structural racism, saying “if your practices have a disparate impact, and you do nothing about it, then that’s where you’re supporting some institutional racism.” She highlighted the importance of training teachers to properly deal with children who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).

In fact, schools with behavioral specialists or dedicated psychologists have fewer suspensions because they can train teachers how to properly deal with students who misbehave – and it doesn’t usually entail sending them home where they lose additional instruction time and fall further behind.

Dr. Bentley-Edwards is an Assistant Professor at Duke University School of Medicine and Associate Director of Research at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Inequality. To learn more about her latest research, check Dr. Bentley-Edwards’ website here.

2nd Article Published in our Duke Today Series

With Policy Bridge’s latest Duke Today story, we’re continuing to highlight policy-relevant research driven by faculty and researchers around campus. Thursday’s article explores the work of public policy professor, Manoj Mohanan, who collaborates with the government of Uttar Pradesh (India) and the World Bank to understand how communities can create something known as social accountability (SA).

SA aims to foster accountability by providing information about entitled benefits under publicly funded programs and bringing community members together in regular meetings to learn about resources and engage with healthcare providers and local officials to redress grievances. Since the project’s official start in May 2016, about 2,000 meetings are taking place every month in targeted communities. Keep an eye out for updates, the project is scheduled to be reviewed in May 2019!

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

Drug Costs and Heart Attack Treatment: Duke Professor Presents Preliminary Findings

Earlier this month at an American College of Cardiology meeting, Dr. Tracy Wang, Associate Professor at Duke School of Medicine, presented preliminary findings on a study involving 11,000 heart attack patients in 300 U.S. hospitals. Funded by the drug maker AstraZeneca, the ARTEMIS study aimed to understand which blood-thinning drugs patients were being prescribed in the wake of their heart attacks and how well those patients stuck to the prescribed medicine over the course of a year. In particular, researchers wanted to understand if the high-cost but more effective brand-name drug (ticagregol) would be more commonly prescribed and used if patients were provided a voucher to offset its extra cost compared to an older generic therapy called clopidogrel.

Hospitals were randomly assigned to a “care as usual” arm and a “co-pay intervention arm” – in the latter, price-equalizing vouchers were available for all patients and doctors were given discretion to prescribe either type of treatment. As expected, clinicians were more likely to prescribe the more effective brand-name drug when they knew patients would not be facing a higher cost. Additionally, patients who received vouchers and used them were more likely to continue taking the medication as prescribed over the course of a year. However, there was no difference in death rates, heart attacks, or strokes between those in the voucher group and the “care as usual” group.

The preliminary results indicate that cost is a huge factor when doctors choose which treatments to prescribe and when patients decide to fill – or not fill – prescriptions. However, reducing cost alone is not sufficient to improve health outcomes. Broader interventions are needed to improve patient health and co-payment reduction can be an important piece of a multi-pronged approach. As Dr. Wang explained, “Our study confirms some of our thoughts on how drug prices affect doctors’ and patients’ behaviors, but we still have a lot of work to do to understand how we can both measure and improve treatment adherence.”

Interested in learning more about the ARTEMIS study? Watch Dr. Wang’s informative overview of the study or read this detailed coverage of the preliminary results.

Duke Research Shows Childhood Obesity Increasing

On Monday, Duke researchers released a paper in the journal Pediatrics documenting their findings on childhood obesity in the United States, and the results are alarming.

Despite a host of programming to combat things like sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits, childhood obesity continues unabated, with a worrisome increase in severe obesity for 2 to 5 year olds. Analyzing data from the Center for Disease Control’s annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Duke and Wake Forest University researchers also identified disparities along racial/ethnic lines with African American and Hispanic children experiencing higher rates of obesity than their White and Asian American peers.

The current findings run counter to previous reports that childhood and adolescent obesity had stabilized or even decreased in recent years. It also suggests that current efforts to combat obesity are insufficient and may only be impacting specific areas of the country. Associate professor of population health sciences and lead researcher on the analysis, Asheley Skinner, put the findings into perspective: “Obesity in the youngest group is a concern…because when obesity starts younger, most of these children continue to have obesity throughout childhood and into adulthood.” In the long term, the implications of such trends range from increasing medical costs for concomitant diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure to decreasing life expectancy.

The Duke Team that collaborated on the recent report works out of Duke’s Center for Childhood Obesity Research, established in January 2017 under the Department of Pediatrics. Of particular interest is the Center’s stated goal to translate original research into policy change “by collaborating with legislators and key decision-makers and providing them with expertise and advice.”


Duke’s Drones helping DoD

Duke researchers from the Nicholas School of the Environment’s marine lab recently won funding for a project that will help the Department of Defense (DoD) use drones to improve land management practices. The Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing Lab specializes in the use of drones, also known as Unmanned Aviation Vehicles (UAVs), to inform marine science and conservation. From counting grey seals in Canada to mapping the North Carolina coast before and after hurricanes, the applications for UAVs are myriad.

For this newest project, researchers at Duke received nearly $1 million from the U.S. DoD to understand how commercial drones with high-resolution imaging can help land managers monitor the effects of storm erosion, amphibious training, and prescribed burns on training facilities along the coast. In particular, the project aims to help integrate UAVs into monitoring practices at Camp Lejeune’s Onslow Beach, a key training area for marines. David Johnston, director of the lab, described how the research and training provided through the project will help “develop the protocols to help balance policies regulating UAS use and provides a clear transition plan to facilitate use across DoD land assets.”

Johnston’s team of Duke researchers will conduct the research in partnership with UNC’s Institute of Marine Science, Croatan National Forest, and Attollo LLC, a veteran-owned company with experienced drone pilots. Leveraging research findings, the private-public partnership will ultimately focus on “technology transition” – providing equipment, training and protocol development to land managers at Camp LeJeune.

For more information on the project, check out this in-depth article from Coastal Review Online.

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

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.

Cook Center’s New Brief on Civic Wealth

On December 8th, 2017, The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity released a new research brief on the concept of civic wealth, written in collaboration with the Scholars Strategy Network and Insight Center for Community Economic Development. All three organizations work to translate research into policy, and their latest research is doing just that.

The Research Brief introduces a new concept through which to understand the current and historical political landscape in the United States: civic wealth. Using economic wealth as a parallel notion, the authors posit that civic wealth is a combination of a person or community’s civic assets minus their civic liabilities. Civic assets may include qualities such as a higher sense of efficacy, high political knowledge or social connectedness. Civic liabilities take away the ability to fully participate in politics, including such things as mass incarceration, stigmatization, voter suppression or caregiver responsibilities.

Using civic wealth as a framework for understanding civic participation can inform efforts to engage marginalized communities in the political process. The authors argue that “failure of scholars and practitioners to correctly diagnose the cause of low levels of civic participation lead to ineffectual prescriptions” and that “the concept of “civic wealth” is a productive corrective.” While the concept is still being “operationalized” it has the potential to provide policymakers with a better understanding of the forces driving (and discouraging) political participation, leading to more effective solutions for mobilizing marginalized communities.

To learn more about the research, check out the authors behind the brief:

  • Avi Green, Executive Director of the Scholars Strategy Network
  • Jamila Michener, Professor of Government at Cornell University
  • Shauna Shames, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University
  • Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Director of Racial Equity and Strategy at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development
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