Office of Academic Engagement

About the OAE
Why You Should Care
Opportunities to Get Involved

Founded in January 2016, DPA’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) works to bridge the divide between research and effective drug policies. Too often our drug policies are driven by ideology, politics, stigma, greed, and/or racism rather than the evidence about what works. With evidence-based policy and science in general under attack at the federal level, insisting on policy grounded in scholarship and providing policymakers with the tools to access and use research is more important than ever.

Scholars and activists discuss reparative justice and the drug war at our White Faces, Black Lives conference. (Oct. 2016)

Are you a researcher or academic interested in drug policy?

Please take this very short survey so we can learn more about you.

Our Goals

The OAE works to strengthen evidence-based drug policy by:

  • Ensuring that the policy campaigns and messaging of DPA and others in the field are supported by the best possible research
  • Engaging researchers and scholars in transforming drug policy
  • Convening experts across disciplines to address emerging issues and solve some of the complex problems posed by drugs and our responses to them
  • Working to make the research environment more supportive of high-quality studies from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives

Our Work

Working collaboratively with scholars, advocates, and people directly impacted by drugs and drug policy, the OAE uses the following strategies to affect change:

  • Providing scholars with tools to be more effective advocates and spokespeople
  • Making research more accessible to policymakers, advocates, activists and the general public
  • Helping scholars identify opportunities to influence drug policy and connecting them directly to policymakers
  • Working with researchers to help them craft policy-relevant research questions and to draw out the policy implications of their findings
  • Linking those doing on-the-ground organizing and advocacy to academics so they can work together to better understand problems, evaluate interventions, generate research, and build policy campaigns
  • Creating forums to solve new or complex problems and to help “connect the dots” by bringing researchers from across disciplines together with policymakers and those directly impacted by our drug policies
  • Raising the profile of and publicizing good research so that it becomes more difficult to ignore
  • Critically examining the field of drug policy research to uncover and expose methodological flaws, conflicts of interest, and systemic biases and working to address those

Started by Princeton professor Ethan Nadelmann more than 20 years ago, DPA originated as a think tank called the Lindesmith Center, which nurtured scholars, held a number of landmark conferences, and produced key reports and materials to inform drug policy. The OAE is proud to build on this rich tradition of working closely with academics and scholars to improve drug policy in the U.S. 

Why You Should Care

Too often scientific evidence seems to have little to do with how drug policy gets made. Despite a robust research base and a plethora of talented scholars working on drugs and drug policy, much of our drug policy flies in the face of both reason and research.

For scholars, there are few institutional incentives in academia in the U.S. to engage in advocacy or policy even though many people would like to play a greater role and want their research to have real-world impact. Few scholars are trained on how to communicate effectively with policymakers. Furthermore, getting research to policymakers in a timely fashion is difficult given the near glacial pace of much academic research.

Given this set of problems, we may not be able to completely bridge the policy-research divide, but we certainly can and must do more to ensure that drug policy is better informed by science and scholarship.

We need professors and researchers — policymakers need them, activists need them, and advocacy organizations need them. We need them to help rationalize drug policy and bridge the gap between the evidence about what works and current practice. It’s well past time for a more sensible drug policy grounded in research and science. Scientists and other scholars have a critical role to play.

Read more about the role of scientists and scholars in drug policy in this blog from OAE Director Jules Netherland.

Opportunities to Get Involved

  • If you are a researcher or academic interested in drug policy, please take this very short survey so we can learn more about you.
  • Join us in supporting drug consumption sites, an evidence-based strategy for reducing overdose, blood-borne infections, and linking people to care. Read more about the campaign to bring a Safe Injection Facility to New York and sign a letter to support the campaign.
  • We know that criminalization makes it harder for people to get the help they need. Join us in opposing legislation and legal actions that seek to prosecute people who sell drugs for homicide. Read and sign the letter here.

Contact Information

Jules Netherland, Director, Office of Academic Engagement

Sheila Vakharia, Policy Manager

Alexandrea Hatcher, Research Associate


Tools for researchers

Tools for policymakers and advocates

OAE event resources

Novel Psychoactive Substances Summit

White Face Black Lives Conference

Stimulant Use: Harm Reduction, Treatment, and Future Directions