Policy Readiness Level (PRL) – a path to implementation and impact

Just as it is advantageous to assess the maturity of a physical project or a technology, it is important to rate the maturity of policy with a common scale.  One of the challenges of moving research and development into commercial use concerns the assessment of maturity of the capability in question. In 1974, NASA devised the concept of “Technology Readiness Level”, or TRL, to enable a more coherent design and procurement process. The TRL concept has since been adopted by DoD as well as internationally.

This framework provides a number of advantages, particularly a common language and understanding of how a nascent capability advances from an idea to a finished product. Along with articulated metrics, the TRL concept helps all entities along the spectrum – from the lab to the field – evaluate along the path and understand what is next.

In some ways, policy development exhibits a similar arc, with some important distinctions. While technology development (i.e., TRL) is focused on an end product or technical capability, policy analysis point towards implementation to foster regulation and/or change in and organization or broader society. All too often there is a mismatch between expectations and outputs, and policy recommendations can have wildly different parameters required for implementation. In order to better orient all stakeholders in policy development, we propose the Policy Readiness Level (PRL) framework. 

Inspired by NASA’s original concept, the PRL brings a common language and understanding of policy recommendation maturity, and the barriers and paths to implementation. In the sprit of rapid prototyping, a quick and dirty take on an “inspired-by” model:

PRLPolicy descriptionNASA TRL equivalent
1Underlying principles observedBasic principles observed
2Policy concept formulatedTech concept formulated
3Early data analysis and/or modelAnalytical/experimental proof of concept
4 More wholistic policy/models testedComponent validation in lab
5 Policy socialized with decision makersComponent validation in environment
6 Policy prototyping (small scale)System/subsystem prototype demo
7Refinement and scalingSystem prototype demo in space
8 Initial implementationComplete system flight qualified
9 Policy fully implemented with dataActual system complete missions

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