MIT International Policy Lab (IPL) issues fourth call for proposals to faculty and researchers

MIT International Policy Lab (IPL) issues fourth call for proposals to faculty and researchers

The IPL provides funding and policy outreach support to  help MIT researchers connect with the policy world

October 18, 2018
Dan Pomeroy | International Policy Lab
October 18, 2018

MIT announces today the fourth Call for Proposals from the International Policy Lab (IPL) at the Center for International Studies, which encourages academically informed solutions to major public policy challenges. The IPL works with faculty at MIT to develop strategies for engaging in two-way dialogues between scholars and policymakers, helping to ensure that public policies are informed by the best available research and that scholars understand the potential policy impact of their own work. The submission deadline is December 07, 2018. 

“We are very pleased with the success of this initiative so far,” said faculty director  Chappell Lawson, associate professor of political science. “Solving the challenges facing our country and the world is central to MIT's mission; better connecting MIT researchers and policymakers contributes to that goal. We have found that many faculty members here want to have an impact on policy but don't feel familiar enough with how the process works to do so efficiently. Helping to connect the academic and policy communities is another way MIT can fulfill its mission of helping to solve the world's great challenges."   

At the end of the 2018 calendar year, the IPL will have sponsored over 70 projects with nearly 50 principal investigators at MIT. These projects have helped faculty members from all five Schools translate and disseminate their research to policy audiences, solicit feedback from policymakers, and provide funding for travel to policy-oriented meetings. Some of these projects include:

Human Health: Assistant Professor Lydia Bourouiba (Civil and Environmental Engineering), who studies the fluid dynamics of disease transmission, has developed revolutionary insights into the spread of respiratory diseases in humans and pathogens in plants. This work has implications for how to best prevent and control infectious diseases in people and contamination in agriculture and food safety. With IPL support, Bourouiba has established collaborations with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and a variety of other non-governmental actors and industry stakeholders. She is currently developing assessment tools that can inform safety and public health guidance from, or actions by agencies such as the FDA and CDC.

Environment: Associate Professor Noelle Selin (Earth and Planetary Sciences the Institute For Data, Systems, And Society) studies how mercury, a toxic pollutant, travels and cycles in the environment, under various policy scenarios. This research is important for the implementation of the Minamata Convention, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. With IPL support, Selin worked on a policy synthesis paper that was launched in July of 2017 at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP). The IPL also applied for and received observer status to the Minamata Convention, allowing Selin to contribute to a side event at the first Conference of Parties (COP1) where she distributed policy briefs summarizing the paper and the work of others at ICMGP. Themes from the policy briefs were later referenced by ministers in their prepared statements.

Big Data and Privacy: Professor Alex Pentland’s (Program in Media Arts and Sciences) research group has pioneered the use of large-scale behavior datasets in research and for commercial purposes. This work has significant implications for ongoing debates within the U.S. and European Union on how to allow innovation while also protecting individual privacy. With IPL support, Pentland’s group was able to brief the French Minister for Digital Affairs, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) health data governance committee, the Chief Technologist for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other stakeholders. The research team received feedback that its work informed the development of privacy regulations by the European Commission. 

International Security: Professor Elizabeth Wood (History) studies the complex relations between domestic and foreign policy in Russia.  This topic has been of great interest to policymakers in the U.S., especially members of Congress. With IPL support, Professor Wood produced a 10-page policy brief and a keynote speech which was delivered to members of Congress, including key committee chairs, at the Aspen Institute Leadership Conference. She was subsequently asked to write up the policy recommendations that emerged from the conference and traveled to Washington, DC to brief a range of individuals in think tanks and the U.S. State Department.

Climate: Professor Thomas Malone (Sloan), in conjunction with faculty at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change, developed the Climate Plan Accelerator (CPA), an international online network that supports countries as they develop detailed, expert-verified plans to meet their climate goals. The goal of the CPA is to integrate large-scale stakeholder engagement and deep climate modeling expertise in a country’s efforts to meet or exceed their NDC goals. For the initial pilot project, the CPA chose to partner with the government of Mexico. The IPL supported their engagement and facilitated contacts with appropriate officials in Mexico. This resulted in overwhelming support for a collaboration between the CPA and these Ministries, with a scope of work to start in 2018.

About the Request for Proposals: Proposals are welcome from all researchers at MIT with principal investigator status who wish to engage the policy community in the U.S. and abroad. Proposals are sought from all parts of MIT. Awards of up to $10,000 in direct costs per project are available; proposals that require only staff support for outreach are also welcome. Guidelines for submission are available at:  

The submission deadline is December 07, 2018. Final selections will be made by March 18, 2019.

About MIT International Policy Lab: 

The mission of the International Policy Lab is to enhance the impact of MIT research on public policy, in order to best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. The IPL accomplishes the mission by helping participating faculty to define realistic policy goals and develop an effective “impact plan” based on these goals and the time the faculty member wishes to devote. The IPL then provides modest grants for MIT faculty members to translate their scholarship into workable policy recommendations and to deliver those recommendations to policymakers. Finally, the IPL provides staff assistance and training.  All of these efforts are designed to maximize the impact of faculty members' policy engagements while minimizing the expenditure of faculty time.

Related links:

IPL Projects:

Banner image: 

L-r: Henrik Selin, Boston University (ICMGP Scientific Steering Committee); Celia Chen, Dartmouth (ICMGP Co-Chair); Noelle Selin, MIT (ICMGP Executive Committee); Sae Yun Kwon, MIT (Postdoc); Amanda Giang, MIT (Postdoc); Helene Angot, MIT (Postdoc)
(Photo courtesy IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis)

The Center for International Studies (CIS) supports interna­tional research and education at MIT. It is the home of MIT’s Security Studies Program; the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative, its pioneering global education program; the Program on Emerging Technologies; and seminars and research on migration, South Asia politics, the Middle East, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, and East Asia. The Center has traditionally been aligned with the social sciences while also working with MIT’s premier science and engineering scholars. CIS produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens.