BH TIG Week: To Publish or Not to Publish… by Elizabeth Oyer

My name is Dr. Elizabeth Oyer, and I am Vice President of Applied Research and Evaluation at Choices Coordinated Care Solutions. I am also the Program Chair for AEA’s Behavior Health Topical Interest Group, the sponsor of this week’s AEA 365 blog postings. Our focus this week is on evidence-based programs or practices (EBPs), advantages and disadvantages of their adoption, and strategies for successful implementation. Some of our writers will even challenge the concept of requiring EBPs in certain situations, such as specified in funding announcements or generalized to all populations. We hope you enjoy the posts this week and that they provide you with a variety of perspectives on the use of EBPs in the behavioral health field.

As a non-profit organization in the Health and Human Services sector, Choices has several long-term strategies to both expand as an organization and continue serving our existing communities. One measure of our value as an organization is our footprint in the sector, not just with outcomes for our families. Currently, the federal landscape has set specific priorities around EBPs through the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act. These priorities are also reflected in clearinghouses’ criteria for inclusion in databases of agencies that are implementing EBPs (e.g., California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare). Clearinghouses may also require experimental research designs published in peer-reviewed journals.


There are a few barriers to achieving these goals for non-profit organizations, including:

  1. EBP list might not include core services offered by the organization
  2. Internal evaluation staff and resources are stretched toward improving programs and services without support for research and publishing initiatives
  3. Experimental designs (e.g., random assignment to treatment) for health and human services can be an ethical non-starter

And yet, we are on track to submit our work for review! Here is some practical advice for addressing these very real barriers.

Lessons Learned:

  • Use opportunities like annual reports to frame quasi experimental questions.
  • Strategically scale programs to take advantage of in-house comparison groups.
  • Make use of wait lists to establish baselines for time series designs.
  • Partner with a university, partner organization, or state agency around a common initiative that can include EBPs.

Rad Resource: One helpful tool on the journey is using a “Journal Finder” to locate a journal that fits your organization’s services and populations. Here are a few examples:

Hot Tip: Read articles from these journals, meet editor panels at research conferences, and plan around topics that might fit into upcoming themes. If you don’t have internal staff, even a small investment in an editing consultant can pay off when finalizing your submission.

Ultimately, creating the strategic priority for the organization to publish will help you leverage resources to produce publishing-quality work.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Behavioral Health (BH) TIG Week with our colleagues in Behavioral Health Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BH TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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