Category: Event

Color of Education 2018

On Tuesday, October 2nd, Duke Policy Bridge at Sanford, Duke Cook Center on Social Equity, and the Public School Forum of NC welcomed NY Times Magazine investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones to open our Color of Education partnership.  We were excited to have Hannah-Jones deliver an awesome keynote address to a North Carolina crowd of roughly 500 educators, school board members, researchers, and community members.

As we’ve highlighted in our prior communications, in 2019 and beyond, “Color of Education” will evolve into an annual summit as well as other statewide and regional gatherings, bringing together educators, policymakers, experts and other key stakeholders focused on achieving racial equity and eliminating racial disparities in education. For more information about October 2nd and future Color of Education events, please contact Policy Bridge.

To watch the footage from October 2nd’s kickoff, please use the link below.

Bridging in the Opioid Crisis

2018 APPAM regional forum at Penn Pavilion at Duke University
Duke Policy Bridge at the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) hosted a 2018 topical forum on how to build research and policy partnerships around the prevailing national issue of opioid misuse

Researchers, policymakers and practitioners gathered at Duke May 1 to discuss how to strengthen working relationships and share evidence-based programs addressing the U.S. opioid crisis. The event, “State and Research University Partnerships in the Opioid Crisis,” was organized by Duke Policy Bridge, part of the Sanford School of Public Policy, and the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM).

Frederick Mayer, professor of Public Policy at Sanford and Policy Bridge director, welcomed the group of more than 150. “Today’s program brings together all the elements of what we teach in Public Policy,” he said. Dr. Susan Kansagra, section chief of chronic disease and injury for the N.C. Division of Public Health, described the event as, “a great opportunity to get people in a room who wouldn’t ordinarily meet.”

One of the day’s themes was how best to connect researchers with policymakers to ensure timely information gets to those who need it. Jenni Owen, senior policy adviser to N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, noted policymakers are often inundated with “let me know if I can help” emails. A more useful approach, she told attendees, is to reach out and, “provide timely, targeted, relevant information.” Owen understands well the potential value of links between researchers and policymakers: She is on leave from her role as senior lecturer at the Sanford School.

Attendees split up into break-out sessions addressing support services for children in households with substance abuse; assisting state officials with data science inquiries; embedding networks for treatment after overdose; and providing a system of care in underserved and rural communities.

Speakers shared their experiences with successful programs. Deputy Sheriff Donnie Varnell, from Dare County, described how his county’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is working: “If we go on a call and it turns out to be someone using drugs, we now ask, ‘Do you want to go to treatment?’ You don’t have to be arrested to get into the program.” That can mean significant cost savings, he added, citing $78 per person, per day “for someone sitting in jail,” versus “$24 for treatment and other services.”

Another common theme was the importance of tailoring a program to a community—and that ALL stakeholders from that community need to be at the table to discuss the program. That includes the drug users who will benefit from the program and the law enforcement officers and others who will implement it. The LEAD program began to work, Varnell said, “when we all sat down at a table and broke bread” and realized they shared a common goal. “We knew we wanted to help individuals get to a better place.”

The final panel of the day was moderated by Erich Senin Huang, co-director of Duke Forge and assistant dean for Biomedical Informatics at the Duke School of Medicine. Dana Bernson, assistant director for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, talked about how her office has been able to link data from various state and community sources, improving accuracy in reporting of opioid deaths and overdoses. Understanding the scope of the problem, panelists agreed, is vital to solving it; research universities, with their wealth of knowledge and resources, can be valuable partners.

Many found the day’s discussions valuable, and attendees could be seen chatting and exchanging business cards throughout the day. Among them was Nicole Schramm-Sapyta, PhD, chief operating officer of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS), one of the event sponsors. She is actively involved in addiction research. “Tackling the opiate epidemic requires collaboration across academic disciplines, and between the academy and the community, along with an understanding of the brain science of addiction, and ultimately, behavior change. DIBS was proud to play a part in sponsoring this incredibly engaging event!”

Other sponsors were the N.C. Scholars Strategy Network and the ncIMPACT program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government.

View the entire May 1st Opioid forum using the YouTube Link below. Breakout Group materials and key takeaways can be found here.

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!


Save the Date: APPAM Forum

State and Research University Partnerships in the Opioid Crisis

Continuing the dialogue around evidence-based policymaking discussed at last spring’s APPAM Institutional Member Forum, Duke Policy Bridge at the Sanford School of Public Policy will host a 2018 topical forum on how to build research and policy partnerships around the prevailing national issue of opioid misuse.

Opioid misuse is a major epidemic across the nation. Local and state officials bear the burden of responses to the epidemic and need assistance coordinating research and resources. As observed through Duke’s and other institution’s collaborations with state government on this issue, research universities can provide valuable resources and expertise to government leaders.

This Institutional Forum, held at Duke University, will connect the worlds of research and policy across this escalating public health epidemic, and will be a valuable opportunity for academics, researchers, and policy officials to exchange best practices for research and policy support in the face of this crisis.

Break out topics will focus on the key areas of:

  • Providing support services for children in households with substance use
  • Assisting state officials with data science inquiries
  • Embedding networks for treatment after overdose
  • Providing a system of care in underserved and rural communities

Speaker details and registration are located here

Duke – NC Government Opioid Strategy Meeting

On October 19th, Policy Bridge brought twenty state policy makers and Duke researchers together in the offices of Governor Roy Cooper to explore areas for collaboration related to the opioid crisis. The objectives of the meeting were:

  1. To help state officials better understand the range of resources at Duke upon which they can draw.
  2. To alert Duke researchers and clinicians to the issues facing policy makers in order to sharpen the relevance of current and future research, and improve clinical practice.
  3. To consider whether an ongoing interagency and cross-departmental conversation between Duke and NC State government would be valuable.

The Governor’s Policy Director, Jenni Owen, joined Professor Fritz Mayer to moderate a discussion covering a myriad of issues related to the opioid epidemic in North Carolina. The state-level government representatives in attendance included officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Public Security, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Governor’s Office. On the Duke side were researchers representing both social science and hard science perspectives, including the Center for Child and Family Policy, the Health Data Science Center, Government Relations, the Institute for Brain Sciences, the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research, and the Duke Health System Opioid Safety Committee.

One primary topic of interest was the divergent views between health practitioners and law enforcement officers regarding the merits of, and best practices around, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).  Also of note were future legislative efforts by Duke Government Relations and Duke Health System Opioid Safety Committee to provide feedback on the policy implications of North Carolina’s Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act, signed into law by Governor Cooper in late June 2017.

Policy Bridge has made the opioid crisis one of its signature policy areas of interest and will continue to convene meetings aimed at creating stronger networks of communication and collaboration between Duke’s cutting-edge researchers and state policymakers across the spectrum.

In case you missed last week’s public event “Finding Common Ground in a Polarized World” with John Hood and Leslie Winner. View it now on Kenan’s YouTube Channel.

NC Politics Event: Finding Common Ground in a Polarized World


Join us for a bipartisan discussion on the state of politics in North Carolina and how we can work towards “Finding Common Ground in a Polarized World” with state leaders John Hood and Leslie Winner. The discussion will be moderated by Duke Professor of Public Policy and Associate Dean for Strategy and Engagement Frederick “Fritz” Mayer.


Leslie Winner, a Democrat and former NC state senator, was the former executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and past recipient of the Governor’s Order of Long Leaf Pine award for outstanding service. John Hood, a conservative and founder of the John Locke Foundation, is president of the John William Pope Foundation and serves as a weekly panelist on the political talk show “NC SPIN.”


These leaders co-chair the North Carolina Leadership Forum (NCLF), which brings together NC civic, business, and political leaders from across the political spectrum to engage in thoughtful dialogue and attempt to find common ground on political issues. Hosted at the Sanford School for Public Policy, the NCLF has been examining questions like minimum wage over the past year.


When: Friday, April 7th 12pm-2pm

Where: Pink Parlor Room in the East Duke Building
112 Campus Dr, Durham, NC 27708

Discussion will be followed by a reception with refreshments.

Street Parking is available in the neighborhoods surrounding East Campus. Paid parking is located at Smith Warehouse.


RSVP here.

Forum Brings Together Policymakers and Academics


On February 17, the Sanford School and APPAM, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management hosted a forum for members on bridging research and policy.  The all-day forum included three panel discussions.

Addressing the Researcher-Policymaker Gap

Anita Brown-Graham, Professor of Public Law and Government, School of Government, University of North Carolina, moderated the morning panel on addressing the researcher-policymaker gap.

In discussing the gap between academic researchers and policymakers, three themes emerged: timing, accessibility, and communication. Senator Chad Barefoot, NC General Assembly, emphasized that the part-time citizen legislature of North Carolina is often underfunded and understaffed so that academics can best reach them at times when policy is being made, outside of election and budget seasons, January through April of odd numbered years.

Rick Glazier, executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center, stressed the importance of getting researchers engaged from the outset by encouraging academics to reach out to policymakers, create safe learning spaces for open dialogue, and spend one-on-one time with lawmakers to better develop policy questions. In terms of accessibility, Glazier noted that academics need to keep in mind the importance of political and fiscal feasibility when considering projects.

Barefoot distinguished between older or more entrenched issue areas in contrast to newer issues. The former are often informed by ideology rather than evidence, and both can be hard to express in the soundbites that many citizens expect. Particularly for lawmakers without academic backgrounds, sharing straightforward memos or briefings can make a bigger impact than academic papers.

Both Glazier and Barefoot expressed the need for a compendium of current research so that legislative staff and academic researchers are not duplicating efforts. Researchers should reach out to policymakers from the outset to design evidence-based policies following rigorous standards and get engaged with legislative committees and stakeholder groups as experts in their fields. The gap between research and policy can be bridged but requires much more proactive collaboration from both sides.

Policy and Research: A Two-Way Street

Jenni Owen, policy director in office of N.C. Governor Roy Cooper, moderated a panel about the two-way street between policy and research.

Manoj Mohanan, assistant professor of public policy,drew on his experiences working in developing countries to stress the importance of building relationships for successful program evaluation and better informed policymaking. He provided examples of projects in India where studies simultaneously evaluated programs and tested academic theories, i.e. “research questions embedded in evaluation.” In one study where private doctors were contracted out by the government, they tested the effectiveness of the program on healthcare access while also assessing hypotheses about contract theory.

 Drew Cummings, chief of staff for the Durham County manager,  echoed Mohanan’s emphasis on relationships and gave examples where multilateral arrangements proved most effective in making evidenced-based policy. He highlighted the success of the Durham Children’s Data Center, a cooperative effort between three parties, each with something different to offer: Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy, Durham Public Schools, and Durham County government. Success comes from bringing together institutions that generate and hold data, those that have the capacity to evaluate data, and policymakers themselves.

Touching on some points from the first panel, Cummings emphasized the importance of “translating” academic findings to make them easier to understand as well as the role of political and fiscal feasibility. Mohanan reiterated that political realities will ultimately decide policies, underscoring the importance of evaluation from the outset.


Evidenced-Based Decisonmaking

The final panel focused on evidence-based decision policy making in three distinct ways: lessons learned, the current political and ideological context of decision making, and future efforts to make administrative data more accessible to all. It was moderated by Ron Haskins, past president of APPAM and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

Kathy Stack, Vice-President of Evidence-based Innovation at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, talked about how both G.W. Bush and Obama prioritized the use of evidence-based decision-making in their administrations. One challenge was that agencies had little capacity and limited resources to conduct rigorous evaluations. With the 2008 fiscal crisis and an influx of federal funds, policymakers and researchers in Obama’s administration realized they had an opportunity to design programs in an intentional way to better evaluate their outcomes. Institutionalized evidence-based practices, like Department of Labor’s Chief Evaluation Office, became common as agencies began to reflect on how programs could be structured and evaluated.

Daniel Gitterman, professor of public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, highlighted the importance of understanding political context. Sometimes policy makers can be hesitant to share data because they may not want to know the answer about their policy’s effectiveness or may only want evidence that justifies their policies. For example, Gitterman said when North Carolina cut unemployment benefits and reduced the maximum payout to families, unemployment numbers decreased. Some politicians interpreted this to mean the reduction in benefits caused a reduction in unemployment. Without the data to further explore this relationship, it was impossible to know for sure what the effect was. Political context can play a role in whether or not evidence-based decision making is used throughout the political process.

The conversation then shifted to strengthening existing administrative data. Federal and state agencies have begun to link administrative data, like student loans and census data, to create more complete databases and ask more complex questions about the impact of their programs. Stacks emphasized that trust among these agencies was key in sharing data. In some cases, informal working groups help enable dialogue about best practices and also provide avenues for Congress to solicit evaluations and input.

Cost and feasibility matter to policy makers, Haskin said, and cross-sector collaboration between agencies, policy makers, and researchers are essential in effective evidence-based decision making practices.


Interactive Component Feedback

The following notes are comments and responses to the highlighted questions below presented in the interactive activity at the APPAM Institutional Member Forum at Duke. Various policy actors, university faculty, doctoral students, researchers, and community partners who attended the forum have provided their feedback listed in the bullet points below. For any questions on the activity, please contact Margaret Maes or Patience Wall at and


For our policy practitioners: what is the most important thing you need to connect with research?

  • Non-technical version of research- plain language, graphics, short (less than 5 pages)
  • Evidence clearing house whose contents are tagged (and searchable) with clear descriptions of intervention, who it works for and under what circumstances
  • Achievement of policy objectives, but with focus on political mileage and improvement in citizen perception about government- Abhishek Jain, Sanford School MIDP Fellow
  • Governments need templates for sharing and protecting data used for research
  • Time: consolidated information, suggestions, and discussions in one place at one time. (organized discussions to hear many perspectives efficiently)

For faculty/researchers/students: what is the most important thing you need for policy engagement?

  • Well-defined channels for engaging( and “teaching”) policymakers
  • Inclusive relationships and conversations. Transparency
  • Likelihood of my research being implemented and [used] as an aid to improve policy effectiveness- Abhishek Jain, Sanford School MIDP Fellow
  • Summaries of key research (top level facts/ findings)
  • Professional development workshops
  • Government agencies willing to use tools like randomization to rigorously evaluate the effects of programs
  • Faculty need to be educated about alternatives to peer reviewed journals. Ex. Stanford Innovation resources Campus Community Partnerships for Health online pub-peer reviewed
  • Cross comparison across states/cities/programs (different levels)
  • When are “my” issues being discussed, by whom, and how can I talk to them?
  • An invitation!
  • Universities need to recognize the value of engaged scholarship in promotion and tenure

Name one resource (could be a person, organization, or material) that you have found useful (or would be useful) for policy engagement to add to our list (which is in your handouts)?

  • EPIC-N, Education Partnerships for innovation in Communities Network. Implementing Academic- Public partnerships


Did you miss the Institutional Forum? You can now watch it on the YouTube link below!

Tweet at @Policy_Bridge and @APPAM_DC with #bridgingforum!

Program Agenda – Feburary 17, 2017

10:30AM Welcome and Plan for the Day

  • Ron Haskins, APPAM Past President; Senior Fellow and Cabot Family Chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution
  • Fritz Mayer, Sanford APPAM Institutional Representative; Professor and Associate Dean, Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Michael J. Schoenfeld, Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, Duke University


10:45AM – 11:45AM Session 1

Two Steps Forward? Recognizing and Addressing the Researcher-Policymaker Gap

The panelists will discuss the gap between academic research and policymaking and possible solutions for the future alignment of the two. The moderator and audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.


12:00PM – 1:00PM Session 2

Two-Way Research-Policy Street Exemplified

  • Moderator: Jenni Owen, APPAM Policy Council Member; Policy Director, Office of the Governor, North Carolina
  • Drew Cummings, Chief of Staff, Office of the County Manager, Durham County, North Carolina
  • Manoj Mohanan, Assistant Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

The panelists will share examples of and strategies for successful bridging between research-policy/practice. The moderator and audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.


1:00PM – 2:00PM LUNCH

Box lunches available for guests to take and eat throughout the Sanford Building


2:00PM – 3:00PM Session 3

What’s Happening and What’s Ahead in the Evidence-Based Policy and Research-Policy Realms – and what can I do?  

  • Moderator: Ron Haskins, APPAM Past President; Senior Fellow and Cabot Family Chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution
  • Daniel Gitterman, Professor, Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Kathy Stack, Vice President of Evidence-Based Innovation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation

The panelists will discuss where we are with the evidence-based policy research agenda, both nationally and on the state level, and discuss what the future might hold for evidence-based research. The moderator and audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.


3:00PM Adjournment



Duke to host forum for public policy leaders on February 17th

*February 16th Update: Event Registration is closed. A YouTube Live Stream on our APPAM forum can be found here. 

Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) are hosting an Institutional Member forum on Friday, February 17, 2017 which will explore how research being conducted in universities is informing policy. Discussion will include the role of practitioners in making policy, researcher/policymaker partnerships, and some strategies to bridge the gap between policy and practice.

This event, held at the Sanford School, will bring together distinguished academia, practitioners, and policymakers who will share their insights on the successful development of coordinated research and policymaking efforts.

The preliminary agenda for the Feburary 17th event is below. *Registration for the event will be made available in mid-January.


Program Agenda

10:30AM Welcome

10:45 – 11:45AM Session 1

What’s the Problem? Practitioners and Policymakers Set Us (researchers) Straight

  • The panelists will discuss the gap between academic research and policymaking and possible solutions for the future alignment of the two. The moderator and audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.

11:45 – 12:45PM Session 2

Two-Way Research-Policy Street Exemplified

  • The panelists will share examples of and strategies for successful bridging between research-policy/practice. The moderator and audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.

12:45 – 1:30PM LUNCH

  • Box lunches available for guests to take and eat throughout the Sanford Building 1:30 – 2:30PM Session 3

What’s Happening and What’s Coming in the Evidence-Based Policy and Research-Policy Realms – and what can I do?  

  • The panelists will discuss how researchers can pursue evidence-based policy research while maintaining tenure and research agendas.The moderator and audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.

2:30PM Adjournment

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