Trainee Program

About This Placement

This opportunity allows junior scholars to gain hands-on experience with practicing and/or studying the cutting-edge of research translation for policy audiences. Trainees join the team as interns, becoming involved in at least one project. After interning for at least 150 hours, interns are promoted to fellows and given the opportunity to participate in a broader array of activities and may take on leadership positions relative to interns. Our trainee program is entirely remote, with meetings through Zoom and tasks discussed via project management software and Slack. If you reside in the DC area, however, there may be opportunities to attend in-person meetings with federal staffers, as public health guidelines allow.  

Trainees generally join one of two teams: Policy/Implementation or Evaluation/Data (see descriptions below). Opportunities to either join both teams simultaneously or switch between them may be available based on trainees’ skills and goals. When applying, applicants will be asked to indicate which team(s) they would like to join.  

Activities of All Trainees

  • Experiential learning (daily). Our team moves quickly given the pace of policy, and we always have several exciting projects running concurrently. Trainees are provided close support by team leads and, when feasible, fellows; however, we encourage trainees’ growth by asking them to learn processes largely independently through reading procedural documents, asking questions, and attending brief tutorials. Trainees are expected to commit about 10 hours per week, whether they are an intern or a fellow, to support their learning. In general, all trainees will learn about program implementation and evaluation. Learning opportunities largely vary across teams but might include, for example, getting a better understanding of the role of evidence in policy, mastering a new software or process, or exploring research solutions for current policy needs.
  • Project meeting attendance (weekly). All trainees are expected to join a virtual project call each week, if their schedule allows. These meetings help coordinate across team members, help provide the bigger picture, and are a chance to get to know other trainees and team leads.
  • Mentorship meeting attendance (monthly). All trainees are provided with close mentorship from one or more team leads, who have a variety of educational backgrounds and areas of expertise. Once a month, active trainees have a one-on-one call with a team lead to check in about their goals, their current tasks with us, and how their goals and tasks are (or are not) in alignment. These calls also provide an opportunity to ask for advice on relevant professional development topics, such as navigating graduate school, seeking jobs in science policy, or networking at conferences. 

Expectations of all trainees

  • Eagerness to learn about the use of research in policy 
  • Willingness to develop new technical skills, including use of virtual platforms/software 
  • Strong attention to detail 
  • Effective time management 
  • Work well in groups and independently 
  • Ability to keep sensitive information confidential 
  • Ability to use word processing software and our online conferencing platform, Zoom

Policy Team

The policy (i.e., implementation) team implements the Research-to-Policy Collaboration Model. Trainees on the implementation team gain knowledge of how research can be applied to policy needs, learn how to discuss the extent to which scientific evidence aligns (or misaligns) with policy language in a nonpartisan and non-lobbying way, and gain experience mobilizing and coordinating researchers with relevant expertise. 

Example Activities

  • Prepare background information for, attend, and take notes in meetings with policy staffers about their research needs 
  • Compile research materials provided by the Rapid Response Network 
  • Contribute to written research-based communication products (e.g., policy briefs, fact sheets, op-eds) 
  • Build the Rapid Response Network’s capacity to field research requests 
  • Record and track process data (e.g., number of meetings conducted) 
  • Assist with in-person events (for trainees with proximity to Washington D.C., in adherence to public health advisories) 

Specific desired skills

  • Ability to work respectfully with individuals across the political spectrum  
  • Comfort with interpreting and synthesizing research from a variety of disciplines 
  • Desire to write for non-scientific audiences 
  • Experience with writing professional emails 
  • Interest in expanding knowledge in policy issues and building new technical skills 

Evaluation Team

All members of the RPC team are exposed to policy training opportunities; however, the data team specializes in using data to inform strategy development. This involves using research design and analysis to study how to improve policymakers’ engagement with research and researchers’ engagement with policy—particularly in online environments. Participating with the evaluation and data team provides in-depth program evaluation training using real-world data and field experiments. This team may be a good fit particularly for those interested in gaining applied research or program evaluation experience that strengthens data-driven decision-making skills. 

Example activities

  • Create and/or review policy engagement strategies, such as email bodies that exemplify theories of best practice. You can watch a video about this process and associated findings here. 
  • Implement field experiments, such as setting up emails or settings within a virtual platform that deliver different policy engagement experiences. Many study designs are randomized controlled trials (RCTs). 
  • Develop procedures for collecting various novel data. This provides opportunities to innovate, demonstrate problem solving skills, and grow your leadership in a developing field. 
  • Real-world data management, which is particularly valuable for those looking to either (a) bridge lab-based research experiences with applied research or (b) develop practical skills for tracking activities in non-academic teams (e.g., nonprofit data management).  
  • Analyze data and communicate results of analyses to internal and external audiences. In some cases, senior trainees may be invited to submit findings to conferences or journals. 
  • Help generate theories about research-policy engagement, such as these. 

Specific desired skills 

  • Ability to document one’s procedures (e.g., code, results, protocols)  
  • Familiarity with experimental design and causal inference 
  • Experience with statistical software (e.g., Stata, SPSS, R)  
  • Experience with advanced statistical models (e.g., logistic regression, count models, MLM) 
  • Familiarity with behavioral science. Most of our tests are related to behavior, so understanding what drives and inhibits behavior is a plus. 

There are opportunities to work outside of the primary teams, too, on activities that ensure the team moves smoothly and that this work is shared with other audiences, such as tracking meetings, managing social media, developing website content, and formatting materials. 

Tasks will vary depending on our current projects.

Application Process

Please click on the “Apply Now” button (below) to complete the application form.  Applications are accepted year-round, though we often welcome new trainees around January, May, and September in alignment with university semesters. Please note that this placement: 

  • is voluntary 
  • can be adapted as needed to support fieldwork requirements, independent study units, or other student milestones 

When reviewing applications, in addition to considering our current team needs, we also consider applicants’: 

  • fit with either team 
  • stage of training – applicants nearing the dissertation stage are preferred, though more junior scholars are certainly considered 
  • schedule flexibility – applicants with flexible schedules are preferred, especially for the policy team 
  • prior U.S. policy experience – applicants with familiarity of U.S. political processes are preferred