While most policymakers have never set foot in a classroom after their own graduations, they have a significant impact on how schools are run by deciding the policies that must be enforced by public institutions. Because of the disconnect that is almost always apparent, academic experts and policymakers don’t always agree on what’s best.
What is acceptable according to the government, when the focus is on the budget and bottom line, may not be what’s best for students and teachers or researchers. To bridge these discrepancies, policymakers and academic experts must find a common ground. The problem is that policymakers don’t understand what is needed at the basic instructional level, and academic faculty and staff don’t understand the intricacies involved in balancing a budget on state and federal levels. Still, a compromise must be sought in order for both sides to be successful.
Challenges to Finding Common Ground
Throughout history, government departments and the public have turned to those in the academic fields for guidance when problems occur, like with the pandemic of COVID-19. Without academic experts to find solutions to the challenges, the problems magnify. But when the state of a nation or the world isn’t at stake, the field of academia is often ignored, neglected, or disrespected by policymakers intent on cutting budgets and slashing quality for quantity or to save money.
These historical challenges to finding common ground have always existed in between pressing circumstances. Academics versus politicians debate everything from societal norms and expectations to the feasibility of going to war. When the goal is the same but the agenda to get there is different, it’s hard to find room to compromise.
Why Academics Need to Help Influence Policymakers
Finding common ground between the two diverse groups can feel like an uphill battle. Academic experts are usually scholars who want to focus on their research and writing. They stay out of the limelight and away from controversial topics in general unless it’s research-related. Writing for policymakers is a very tiny niche in the academic landscape. But more and more researchers are looking for ways to use their work to influence policies and spur public awareness that a change must be made in their focus area.
Academics need to help influence policymakers, though, if only to get them to understand the clearer picture of the policies they are working on. Typically, policymakers only know part of the story. They think they’re addressing the issues as best as they can, without fully knowing what those issues entail and the consequences to the changes they are trying to enforce. Since scholars, by nature, are educators, it falls to them to educate those in charge of writing the policies as to the full extent of the issue they are discussing.
Research outcomes are generated from an unbiased reference point, unlike media outlets and other avenues in which policymakers may get their information from. By stepping in and working together, academic experts can help guide informed change.
Strategies to Meet at a Common Ground for Everyone
Assertive strategies and aggressive tactics generally don’t work when a compromise is this important. Instead, scholars should take the intellectual, strategic approach and attempt to find a common ground with actions such as:
● Ensuring only the highest quality research is being used to demonstrate the knowledge in question to the policymakers
● Using professional, yet less formal, language when providing information to policymakers, remembering that they are educated but not research scholars
● Taking the time to research policies that could be affected tangentially by the changes the academic experts are requesting to be made
● Making themselves available to policymakers for clarification, discussion, and information gathering
● Building relationships between the policymakers and their aids before, during, and after the changes in question are being discussed
● Opening their minds to business-related theories that are an integral part of the policies and the results of different actions
When academic experts approach policymakers with a well-informed idea of what they are asking for and what’s at stake, those in the legal venues are more likely to work with them to find a common ground.