Rapid-Response Research and Quick-Strike Analyses

What they are, how they work, lessons learned

“We just want this to matter; so how do we help make it matter?”—Andrew M. Ryan, PhD, Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization grantee

Policymakers must often make decisions by the seat of their pants, with limited evidence as to their effectiveness. Traditional research approaches are out of sync with this reality, and by the time research findings are available, policymakers have long since taken action.

Telephone interviews were conducted with RWJF staff, other funders in philanthropy and government, and researchers to explore strategies for closing this gap. The report uses the voices of interviewees to explore five key themes and lessons from these experiences.

Characteristics of rapid-response research and quick-strike analyses

Rapid-response research and quick-strike analyses describe studies ranging from $25,000 to $600,000 and taking from one week to four years to complete.

Funding, getting, and managing rapid-response research and quick-strike analysis grants

Funders use a variety of strategies to make grants more quickly: accepting proposals more often, providing set-asides within larger grants, giving retainer grants, and using in-house staff. Researchers may absorb some costs when grant amounts are small.

“Academic institutions sometimes tell us the grants are more trouble than they are worth. They would be wrong.”—Scott Frank, MD, Ohio Public Health Practice-Based Research Network

Benefits, tradeoffs, and controversies

Time-sensitive research involves balancing cost, rigor, and time, and by its nature enters the tricky terrain of ideology and politics.

“Facts are not neutral in the shooting war of national health policy.”—Drew Altman, PhD, Kaiser Family Foundation

The researchers

Some researchers who excel in this work call themselves “pracademics.” They tend to be advanced in their careers and are willing to take risks and change focus as when policy issues change.

Publication and communication

The policymaking clock and the publication clock are usually out of sync.

“You have to decide whether jumping to publish without peer review will compromise the work.”—Laura C. Leviton, PhD, RWJF

Balancing short- and long-term agendas and missions

Three senior officials think about RWJF’s dual agendas to inform important current policy and to create enduring change over the course of several years.

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Quick-strike analyses navigate the tricky terrain of ideology & politics by sticking to science.

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Rapid-response research puts info in hands of decision-makers when they need it and in time for them to act