If only there were some other way academics could communicate their ideas

Hoag Levins reports on a symposium that took place at the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics:

Academic researchers who are compiling large amounts of new knowledge about how behavioral economics principles can be applied to workplace health initiatives aren’t making those insights available to company managers in a meaningfully useful manner, according to a panel of high-level corporate wellness executives. […]

The overall response from the panel made up of the former Chief Medical Officer of General Electric, former CEO of Weight Watchers International, and former PepsiCo Senior Vice President for Global Health Policy, was that corporate managers can’t make sense of the large, widely scattered and rapidly changing body of academic literature on the subject. […]

He and the others noted there are thousands of journal papers on the subject but no effort beyond those separate, isolated publishings to synthesize or index the findings in a way that makes their knowledge accessible to industrial managers charged with designing and implementing behavioral economics-based wellness programs.

What the executives want is a how-to guide that just gives them the final answers, without going through the sundry, conflicting literature. I’m sympathetic to this idea, and am a big fan of literature reviews and syntheses for this reason. If they’re done well, they include both a succinct executive summary as well as enough of the details to appreciate any key nuances in the evidence. However, the evidence base always changes, in part because the environment changes and in part because new methods and data are applied.

So, what else can researchers do to keep managers and policymakers informed? There must be something — some kind of an electronic, updatable, web-based thingamabob where one can report on new evidence and put it in context and in relatively simple terms. I can’t quite make out the details, but there’s a free idea out there for someone who can dream up such a thing.

More on that symposium is here.


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