Background: While prior work has revealed conditions that foster policymakers’ use of research evidence, few studies have rigorously investigated the effectiveness of theory-based practices. Specifically, policymakers are most apt to use research evidence when it is timely, relevant, brief, and messaged appropriately, as well as when it facilitates interactive engagement. This study sought to experimentally evaluate an enhanced research dissemination intervention, known as the SciComm Optimizer for Policy Engagement (SCOPE), implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic among US state legislators. Methods: State legislators assigned to health committees and their staff were randomized to receive the SCOPE intervention. This involved providing academic researchers with a pathway for translating and disseminating research relevant to current legislative priorities via fact sheets emailed directly to officials. The intervention occurred April 2020–March 2021. Research language was measured in state legislators’ social media posts. Results: Legislators randomized to receive the intervention, relative to the control group, produced 24% more social media posts containing research language related to COVID-19. Secondary analyses revealed that these findings were driven by two different types of research language. Intervention officials produced 67% more COVID-related social media posts referencing technical language (e.g., statistical methods), as well as 28% more posts that referenced research-based concepts. However, they produced 31% fewer posts that referenced creating or disseminating new knowledge. Conclusions: This study suggests that strategic, targeted science communication efforts may have the potential to change state legislators’ public discourse and use of evidence. Strategic science communication efforts are particularly needed in light of the role government officials have played in communicating about the pandemic to the general public.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Policy
- Health Informatics
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health