What do governmental researchers do?

Are you looking for fair, accurate, and independent information about your government?

Governmental research agencies provide the analysis and reporting you may be looking for.

Governmental research, as it is performed by the many organizations across the United States that engage in it, has two basic functions:

  • Analysis of state and local government problems and their impacts.
  • Decision-oriented reporting of facts and conclusions based on those facts.

Analysis of state and local government problems and their impacts.

Through the use of information and statistics from both governmental and private sources, governmental research organizations develop timely analyses of major problems facing state and local government and explore potential solutions for the public’s benefit. Generally, those analyses cover the following subjects:

What is the financial condition of the governmental unit?  What are the long-term trends?  Will revenues be adequate to cover expected expenditures?  Is debt under control and is it being used properly?  What are strengths and weaknesses of the tax structure of the unit?

Is the governmental unit structured to provide for accountability and effective, efficient management of public programs?  Are programs effective in accomplishing their intended results?  Do program managers select the lowest-cost means of providing given services?

How are public dollars allocated among competing functions and purposes and what are the trends?  How has the state chosen to provide for the distribution of revenues to local units?  Are there better alternatives?  What effect are state and local policies of taxing, spending, and regulating having on the economy of the state?

Decision-oriented reporting of facts and conclusions based on those facts.

Frequently, governmental decisions are based on vague, unanalyzed impressions of a condition that may warrant public attention or on the basis of facts that have been selected in order to lead to predetermined conclusions.  

Governmental research takes as a given that governmental decisions will be better if they are based on good information.​

“Good information” consists largely of facts relevant to the issue and conclusions based on those facts. Governmental research organizations argue that governmental reform will be more successful if it is achieved through the presentation of factual research. Frequently, governmental research organizations are the only reliable sources of that kind of information.

What makes governmental research organizations different?

If you were to ask several individuals familiar with governmental research to name the single most distinguishing attribute of governmental research organization, they would probably agree on one: credibility. Credibility doesn’t come easily or quickly. It is earned over a long period of time by adherence to three paramount principles.

Governmental research reports must be accurate in the smallest detail. Figures are checked and rechecked, charts reviewed, statements verified, and conclusions challenged to sure that each fact can be supported, and each conclusion and recommendation defended. Governmental researchers know that one small error, however trivial, can cast doubt on an otherwise well-researched report. As a result, the goal of governmental researchers is to develop facts and conclusions whose accuracy is beyond challenge.

Governmental research reports must be fair. This does not mean that they cannot come to conclusions — even strong conclusions. But those conclusions must be supportable and must take into account others that are possible, even though they may be entirely opposite. Moreover, the conclusions of governmental research reports flow from the facts developed in the research, not the other way around. Governmental research organizations do not select or tailor facts to fit preordained conclusions. If the facts don’t support a conclusion or recommendation, it isn’t made.

Perhaps the most important aspect of credibility for a governmental research organization is its independence. It is also probably the most difficult to maintain. In a world of interest-group politics and paid consultants, it is often difficult to convince anyone that there actually are organizations that exist to take the point of view of the citizen in public affairs. Skeptics continually seek to find hidden motives in the work of governmental research organizations, to prove that the agency really represents this interest or that group of contributors. But when a definitive, reliable answer to a question or problem of public policy is sought; when policymakers conclude that a truly unbiased, nonpartisan, independent judgement is needed, it is then that they turn to the governmental research organization, secure in the knowledge that, although they may not like the answer, it will have been arrived at honestly and openly.

Is Governmental Research For You?

  • Do you believe citizens will be better served by their governmental units if there is an organization that continually asks whether we are getting our money’s worth and then seeks to answer that question in a fair and reliable manner?
  • Do you believe a professional agency that places accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness in government at the top of its agenda is a valuable asset to a community?

If so, the Governmental Research Association is here to support you. 

Join the GRA

Annual dues are $200 for individuals and $450 for organizations, entitling members to receive the following benefits:

Sign up your organization’s staff for our monthly newsfeed, highlighting research and policy briefs from all association members.

From advances in education policy to communication tools, the GRA provides webinars year-round to educate and support your organization.

Qualify to compete for GRA Awards, celebrating Distinguished Research, Effective Citizen Education, and Policy Achievement among all member organizations.

Register for our annual conference at a discounted rate.

Tap into our nationwide network of individuals engaged in governmental research.

GRA Membership Form

  • Price: $450.00
    Organizational GRA Membership covers all employees in your organization. Please send a spreadsheet of your employees who should be added to our mailing list (first name, last name, organization, email address) to Annie McGowan at
  • Price: $200.00
  • $0.00

or download the membership form here.

Need more information? If you have any questions or comments, you can send them to Shawn at or Annie at