A review of policy dissemination and implementation research funded by the National Institutes of Health, 2007–2014

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BackgroundPolicy has a tremendous potential to improve population health when informed by research evidence. Such evidence, however, typically plays a suboptimal role in policymaking processes. The field of policy dissemination and implementation research (policy D&I) exists to address this challenge. The purpose of this study was to: (1) determine the extent to which policy D&I was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), (2) identify trends in NIH-funded policy D&I, and (3) describe characteristics of NIH-funded policy D&I projects.MethodsThe NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool was used to identify all projects funded through D&I-focused funding announcements. We screened for policy D&I projects by searching project title, abstract, and term fields for mentions of “policy,” “policies,” “law,” “legal,” “legislation,” “ordinance,” “statute,” “regulation,” “regulatory,” “code,” or “rule.” A project was classified as policy D&I if it explicitly proposed to conduct research about the content of a policy, the process through which it was developed, or outcomes it produced. A coding guide was iteratively developed, and all projects were independently coded by two researchers. ClinicalTrials.gov and PubMed were used to obtain additional project information and validate coding decisions. Descriptive statistics—stratified by funding mechanism, Institute, and project characteristics—were produced.ResultsBetween 2007 and 2014, 146 projects were funded through the D&I funding announcements, 12 (8.2 %) of which were policy D&I. Policy D&I funding totaled $16,177,250, equivalent to 10.5 % of all funding through the D&I funding announcements. The proportion of funding for policy D&I projects ranged from 14.6 % in 2007 to 8.0 % in 2012. Policy D&I projects were primarily focused on policy outcomes (66.7 %), implementation (41.7 %), state-level policies (41.7 %), and policies within the USA (83.3 %). Tobacco (33.3 %) and cancer (25.0 %) control were the primary topics of focus. Many projects combined survey (58.3 %) and interview (33.3 %) methods with analysis of archival data sources.ConclusionsNIH has made an initial investment in policy D&I research, but the level of support has varied between Institutes. Policy D&I researchers have utilized a variety of designs, methods, and data sources to investigate the development processes, content, and outcomes of public and private policies.