Informing Decisionmakers in Real Time

Article by Robert M. Groves: “In response, the National Science Foundation (NSF) proposed the creation of a complementary group to provide decisionmakers at all levels with the best available evidence from the social sciences to inform pandemic policymaking. In May 2020, with funding from NSF and additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, NASEM established the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) to connect “decisionmakers grappling with difficult issues to the evidence, trends, and expert guidance that can help them lead their communities and speed their recovery.” We chose to build a network because of the widespread recognition that no one small group of social scientists would have the expertise or the bandwidth to answer all the questions facing decisionmakers. What was needed was a structure that enabled an ongoing feedback loop between researchers and decisionmakers. This structure would foster the integration of evidence, research, and advice in real time, which broke with NASEM’s traditional form of aggregating expert guidance over lengthier periods.

In its first phase, SEAN’s executive committee set about building a network that could both gather and disseminate knowledge. To start, we brought in organizations of decisionmakers—including the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the International City/County Management Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures—to solicit their questions. Then we added capacity to the network by inviting social and behavioral organizations—like the National Bureau of Economic Research, the National Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, The Policy Lab at Brown University, and Testing for America—to join and respond to questions and disseminate guidance. In this way, SEAN connected teams of experts with evidence and answers to leaders and communities looking for advice…(More)”.