Stacked Intermediaries and Policy Use of Research-Based Evidence


The quality of information in the public sphere and its dissemination is of increasing concern, nevertheless large parts of the information ecosystem continue to function very well. However, lacking a crisis narrative the functional aspects of the system have not been studied much, limiting our capacity to protect and develop existing strengths. We address this gap, focusing on the dissemination and use of arguably the highest quality information in the public sphere - research-based, consensus reports - and their dissemination to and use by a crucial but underappreciated constituency - state and local policymakers. Our understanding of the use of high-quality scientific information in state and local policymaking is lacking. Intermediary organizations often bridge the chasm between scholars and policymakers making scientific evidence useable and understandable. This project will develop understanding of how credible actors implement research findings in improving our society


Approach and Expected Results

The project explores the role of intermediary organizations that discover, filter, and synthesize the corpus of scientific information on topics of public import. Central to the project is the parsing of the roles of different types of intermediaries in translating scientific knowledge to non-technical users of science. Of particular interest is the behavior of substantively focused intermediary organizations accessing reports of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). Little is known about how intermediary organizations use the state-of-the-art reports generated by NASEM. However, by accessing and redeploying the information in NASEM reports these types of organizations can multiply their impact of reports, and the science contained within, throughout their affiliated service populations. Thus, we posit that intermediaries should be conceptualized as stacks of organizations that play complementary roles in the filtering and dissemination process. The project uses National Academies report download data as a case study enabling in-depth analysis and tracking of timing, domain, location, and reason for accessing reports.

The objectives of the project are:

  • Better understand the patterns of accessing scientific intermediary reports by the public, professionals, companies, government agencies, and substantive intermediaries, and how this varies across the country.
  • Identify the variety of uses of scientific consensus reports in policymaking by intermediaries and agencies.

The work will advance our understanding of knowledge intermediary organizations by examining how scientific and substantive intermediaries access, curate, and use the findings of science in their efforts to influence state and local policy-makers.



Professor Kimberley R. Isett – Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware

Professor Diana Hicks – School of Public Policy (Georgia Tech)

Professor Gordon Kingsley - School of Public Policy (Georgia Tech)



U.S. National Science Foundation, Award # 2001455


For more information contact: Diana Hicks,