Washington State has done a commendable job in managing the COVID-19 crisis. It was the state where the first case in the United States was discovered, and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH)—along with the Governor’s office—set up a research-policy partnership very early on in the crisis to help guide its policy decision based on science and data. This research-policy partnership consisted of experts from the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM), Microsoft AI for Good, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch), University of Washington, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
The goal of this project was to document how evidence from modeling and analytics was used to inform policy in Washington State and identify lessons learned from this experience during the period from February 2020 and June 2021. Specifically, the project aimed to:
- Identify best practices and enabling environmental factors for a strong research-policy partnership
- Gather lessons learned on how to efficiently (re)deploy technical capacity (e.g., databases, modeling tools, etc.)
- Understand what systems infrastructure is needed for a modeling-to-policy process to successfully support policy decisions and a rapid and effective response
The START team’s strategy in undertaking this project involved five main phases. Firstly, the team conducted a background literature review on research-policy partnerships and the COVID-19 response in Washington State. That allowed the team to have a deeper understanding of this subject and identify potential key informants. Secondly, a comprehensive interview protocol and sets of separate interview questions for both modelers and policymakers were developed. Thirdly, the team conducted a series of individual, in-depth, semi-structured key informant interviews. The interview notes were then categorized into major themes to analyze the collected data. Lastly, findings from these interviews were aggregated into a report.
The team also prepared a slide deck, which was presented to an audience that included invitees from the Global Delivery Programs and several other teams within the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IDM in late September. Finally, the START team incorporated the feedback from the audience into their final report.