International Policy Lab issues new call for proposals

The IPL provides funding and policy outreach support to help MIT faculty and researchers connect with the policy world.

Dan Pomeroy, International Policy Lab

IPL Delegation

With International Policy Lab support, MIT Associate Professor Noelle Selin (third from left) led a delegation of MIT researchers to the first conference on the Minamata Convention on Mercury. There, the team disseminated mercury science policy briefs developed with IPL support. The team members, as pictured here: (l-r) Boston University Assistant Professor Henrik Selin, Dartmouth College Research Professor Celia Chen, Selin, and MIT postdocs Sae Yun Kwon, Amanda Giang, and Helene Angot.

Photo courtesy of Mike Muzurakis/IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin, and the International Policy Lab

The International Policy Lab (IPL) within the Center for International Studies has issued its third Institute-wide call for proposals. The IPL helps leading MIT researchers develop the policy implications of their research and better inform the policymaking community in the United States and abroad. It provides funding and staff support for translating scholarly work into digestible, policy-relevant materials and for direct outreach to policymakers.

“We are very pleased with the success of this initiative so far,” says faculty director Chappell Lawson, associate professor of political science. “Solving the challenges facing our country and the world is central to MIT's mission; better connecting MIT researchers and policymakers contributes to that goal.”

“Engineers, scientists, and other scholars at MIT produce a great deal of research that has direct implications for policy, but it is not always in a form that helps policymakers know what to do tomorrow. We have found that many faculty members here want to have an impact on policy but don't feel familiar enough with how the process works to do so efficiently,” Lawson says. “Helping to connect the academic and policy communities is another way MIT can fulfill its mission of helping to solve the world's great challenges.”

In its previous calls for proposals, the IPL received applications from and offered support for projects to faculty members from all five Schools, helping to translate and disseminate their research to policy audiences, soliciting feedback from policymakers, and providing funding for travel to policy-oriented meetings.

“We are delighted to be working with colleagues across the Institute to help extend the reach of their path breaking ideas to the policy world,” says Richard Samuels, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for International Studies.

Projects from faculty spanned a diverse set of topics, including energy and environment, international security and development, health and biology, and privacy issues.

“The IPL provides tremendous support for educating MIT faculty and researchers about how to think about the policy implications of their work,” says Elizabeth Wood, a professor of Russian and Soviet history. “I personally benefited both from the special workshops that IPL held and also from Dan Pomeroy’s expert advice and editing as I was preparing materials to take to Washington and to an international meeting in Berlin.”

Elsa Olivetti, the Atlantic Richfield Assistant Professor of Energy Studies in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, says that, with the support of IPL, she has been able to “extend the reach of my research findings not only in the context of U.S. policy, but also abroad. IPL’s prompt, professional, consistent support has been essential to my work, and I find they strike the perfect balance between offering constructive feedback and listening to where I feel the impact of my research will resonate most.”

Areg Danagoulian, the Norman C. Rasmussen Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, says the IPL helped connect him to major players in the area of U.S.-Russia nuclear security to discuss technologies being developed at MIT. “Given my non-policy background, the advice I received both directly from IPL and from the experts that the IPL connected me with was crucial to developing a strategic and efficient outreach plan,” Danagoulian says.

Lydia Bourouiba, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering who studies respiratory disease transmission, says the support of the IPL program and team “has allowed for fantastic opportunities to identify partnerships in public health policy and to facilitate onset of new collaborations and outreach activities. In addition, IPL support has been particularly valuable for receiving feedback early in the process of translating scientific research results into policy recommendations.”

Proposals are welcome from all researchers at MIT with Principal Investigator status who wish to engage the policy community in the U.S. and abroad. Proposals are sought from all parts of MIT. Awards of up to $10,000 in direct costs per project are available; proposals that require only staff support for outreach are also welcome. Guidelines for submission are available on the IPL website.

The submission deadline is Dec. 8. Final selections will be made by Feb. 14, 2018.

The mission of the IPL is to enhance the impact of MIT research on public policy, in order to best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. The IPL accomplishes the mission by helping participating faculty to define realistic policy goals and develop an effective impact plan based on these goals and the time the faculty member wishes to devote.

The IPL then provides modest grants for MIT faculty members to translate their scholarship into workable policy recommendations and to deliver those recommendations to policymakers. Finally, the IPL provides staff assistance and training. All of these efforts are designed to maximize the impact of faculty members' policy engagements while minimizing the expenditure of faculty time.

The Center for International Studies (CIS) supports interna­tional research and education at MIT. It is the home of MIT’s Security Studies Program; the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative, its pioneering global education program; the Program on Emerging Technologies; and seminars and research on migration, South Asia politics, the Middle East, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, and East Asia.

The center has traditionally been aligned with the social sciences while also working with MIT’s premier science and engineering scholars. CIS produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens.