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A public policy center is an academic institution that analyzes activities by legislatures and government agencies. The staff at a public policy center consists of research fellows, interns, and a communications staff. The scope of a center's research can range from local legislative issues to interactions between national and international organizations. Public policy fellows look at the influences of legislative acts, elections, and non-governmental actors on public affairs. The funding source for a public policy center can be a state university system, corporations, or private donors.
The research conducted by a public policy center originates from a group of research fellows. These fellows are typically professors and academic researchers who specialize in narrow areas of public policy. The typical policy center also brings in undergraduate and graduate interns to assist fellows with their research. A public policy institute might invite visiting fellows and lecturers to assist with new initiatives. Research papers, memos, and booklets created by a public policy institute are generated by an in-house communications team.
Public policy institutes focus their attention on local, national, or international issues based on their mission statements. An institute within a local college might focus entirely on state legislatures and local political issues. Policy centers focused on national legislatures, constitutional issues, and elections are often housed in public universities. The study of public policy on a global scale might be carried out by an institute located in a major world capital.
These different approaches to public policy research show the complex relationships that are explained by policy fellows. One area of research is the long-term effects of public policy created in the past. This research can also evolve into a comparison between past and present policies. A research fellow might spend time looking at how language used in elections influences the adoption of new policies. Public policy centers with large research teams may assign each fellow to a specific policy area, like environmental issues or electoral reform.
The funding for a public policy center may come from public or private organizations interested in producing unique research. State universities use public funding to produce objective research through their policy centers. A public policy center focused on the effects of policy on a specific industry might be funded by a group of businesses. An individual corporation can fund public policy research that supports its product development and marketing efforts. Policy institutes can also operate as non-profit organizations that solicit donations from individuals and companies.