Research News

Hillman, co-authors examine ways to make research more policy relevant

February 27, 2015

UW-Madison’s Nicholas Hillman is the lead author of a monograph that was recently published in the ASHE Higher Education Report.

This study is titled, “Public Policy and Higher Education: Strategies for Framing a Research Agenda.”

Hillman says this paper was written for graduate students and junior faculty members, like the co-authors, who are examining ways to better frame and conduct higher education research so that it will be more relevant to policymakers.

Nicholas Hillman
Hillman is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, and an affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE). The monograph is co-authored by David Tandberg, a WISCAPE affiliate and associate director of the Center for Postsecondary Success at Florida State, and Brian Sponsler, the director of the Postsecondary Institute at Education Commission of the States.

The introduction to the study notes: “Over the past several decades, observers have levied sharp criticisms against the quality and direction of research that occurs within the field of higher education. One of the more visible critiques came from George Keller's (1985) metaphor that this research field is a 'tree without fruit,' barren due to its inability to resonate with public policymakers and educational practitioners. He warns that the field could become a ‘literature without an audience’ if we fail to make our work resonate beyond academic circles and into the realm of public policymaking.”

It goes on to note how “academic research can play an important role at the policy table, but getting one's research to that table can be challenging.”

The paper later adds: “The primary goal of this monograph is to provide guidance on ‘how to” conduct policy-relevant scholarship in higher education. To inform our discussion, we draw from traditional theories of the policymaking process and we illustrate examples of how higher education researchers have applied these theories in their own work. Through our synthesis of this literature, and based on our own experiences interacting with higher education scholars, governmental staff, and policy advocates, readers should be able to develop a firm baseline from which to build their research agenda on a given policy topic.”

To learn more about this complex topic, make sure and check out the entire monograph on this ASHE Higher Education Report web page.