Recently, I had the honor of becoming the first Oklahoma member of the Scholars Strategy Network, a new national initiative aimed at getting scholars more actively engaged in public policy issues and debates.
Led by renowned Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol, the network seeks to bridge the ususal divide between academic research and public policy by having its members produce concise research pieces on timely topics intended for a general audience. Among the recent briefs from network members are pieces looking at efforts to foster advanced manufacturing in the United States, the impact of poverty on education, the war on drugs and terror in Mexico, and the strengths and limits of the Earned Income Tax Credit. My initial two-page brief for the network makes the case for curbing tax breaks for Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry, based on the longer issue brief OK Policy released on the subject this fall.
Efforts are now underway to create an Oklahoma chapter of the network, boosted by Prof. Skocpol and Nick Carnes, a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy who is a University of Tulsa graduate (and a former intern of mine from the Community Action Project of Tulsa). The involvement of many of Oklahoma’s leading economists in last year’s income tax debate is, in many ways, an exemplary instance of what the Scholars Strategy Network is hoping to achieve. In response to Arthur Laffer’s report calling for the elimination of the income tax, distinguished economists, including Kent Olson, Robert Dauffenbach, Larkin Werner, Cynthia Rogers, Alexander Holmes, Jonathan Wilner and Mickey Hepner, weighed in to debunk the case for tax cuts, helping turn the tide with the public and policymakers. More recently, a report critical of the state’s A-F school report cards was produced jointly a team of top researchers from the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy (OU) and the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation (OSU). There are many other pressing issues on which the scholarly community can and should play an active role.
We hope to have the Oklahoma chapter up and running by the end of this summer. Once established, the chapter would organize regular events and meetings, encourage members to write regular policy briefs, and identify opportunities for scholarly research to have an impact on policy debates and decisions Oklahoma. Anyone interested in becoming part of the network should contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.