Nov. 20, 1997
Vol. 17, No. 5

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    New council bridges gap between researchers, policy-makers

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies has launched a program to strengthen formal communication links between researchers at the school and policy-makers in the Midwest.

    The school has created a new body, the Harris School Council on Public Policy, to stimulate action-oriented debate on timely policy issues of both regional and national significance.

    The council began its work earlier this fall with a dinner for academics and Chicago-area policy-makers that featured a keynote address by former judge and congressman Abner Mikva, Visiting Professor and the Walter V. Schaefer Fellow in Public Policy in the Law School. Mikva discussed the roles of the media and academics in influencing public policy.

    The council will hold another session Jan. 13, at which Kenneth Blackwell, state treasurer of Ohio, will discuss welfare reform and its impact at the state level. A session planned for later this academic year will include remarks from John Norquist, mayor of Milwaukee.

    To help serve the research needs of the council, the Harris School has also launched the Institute for Policy Review and Analysis, an independent policy research organization designed to focus on short-term research projects that have immediate and practical relevance to current policy debate. Outstanding research issues generated by the council will be directed to the institute for additional analysis and study.

    "Academics and policy-makers alike will benefit from sharing their perspectives on the latest research and challenges impacting a particular policy debate," said Don Coursey, Dean of the Harris School.

    "Although academics are often called upon to present their research to policy-makers and to discuss its relevance to current policy debates, policy-makers are infrequently provided with a similar means of exchange with academics and other experts," he said. "Moreover, few communication channels exist in which elected officials and other key policy players can engage in candid and informal discussions with noted academics about current policy problems and issues."

    The council consists of 150 individuals who represent a wide spectrum of the Chicago policy community, from leaders of environmental agencies and senior staff members of Midwestern cities to researchers and scholars at other universities.

    The dinner meetings planned by the council are designed as working sessions to help set the stage for further dialogue among those concerned with particular policy problems or issues. The topics will span a wide range of issues, but emphasize issues relevant to Illinois and the rest of the Midwest region.

    "The council is intended to have a formal as well as informal impact on policy-making," Coursey said.

    "A sub-group of the council will convene quarterly to address specific policy issues, as determined by an executive committee," he explained. "We expect that these discussions will result routinely in substantive research projects and policy recommendations."