There has been a rapid increase in the number of, and demand for, organisations offering behavioural science advice to government over the last ten years. Yet we know little of the state of science and the experiences of these evidence providers.
Aims and objectives:
To identify current practice in this emerging field and the factors that impact on the production of high-quality and policy-relevant research.
A qualitative study using one-to-one interviews with representatives from a purposeful sample of 15 units in the vanguard of international behavioural science research in policy. The data were analysed thematically.
Relationships with policymakers were important in the inception of units, research conduct, implementation and dissemination of findings. Knowledge exchange facilitated a shared understanding of policy issues/context, and of behavioural science. Sufficient funding was crucial to maintain critical capacity in the units’ workforces, build a research portfolio beneficial to policymakers and the units, and to ensure full and transparent dissemination.
Discussion and conclusion:
Findings highlight the positive impact of strong evidence-provider/user relationships and the importance of governments’ commitment to co-produced research programmes to address policy problems and transparency in the dissemination of methods and findings. From the findings we have created a framework, ‘STEPS’ (Sharing, Transparency, Engagement, Partnership, Strong relationships), of five recommendations for units working with policymakers. These findings will be of value to all researchers conducting research on behalf of government.
To support evidence-informed decision making in a health service context, there is a need to better understand the contextual challenges regarding evidence use.
Aims and objectives:
To examine experiences of evidence use and perceived barriers, facilitators and recommended strategies to increase research use among senior decision makers in the national health service in Ireland.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with decision makers in Ireland’s national health service (n= 17) from August 2021 to January 2022. Criterion sampling was used (division in the organisation and grade of position), and interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Barriers and facilitators were mapped according to multiple-level categories (individual, organisational, research, social, economic, political) identified in the literature.
Health service decision makers described a blended and often reactive approach to using evidence; the type and source of evidence used depended on the issue at hand. Barriers and facilitators to research use manifested at multiple levels, including the individual (time); organisational (culture, access to research, resources, skills); research (relevance, quality); and social, economic and political levels (external links with universities, funding, political will). Strategies recommended by participants to enhance evidence-informed decision making included synthesising key messages from the research, strengthening links with universities, and fostering more embedded research.
Discussion and conclusion:
Evidence use in health service contexts is a dynamic process with multiple drivers. This study underlines the need for a multilevel approach to support research use in health services, including strategies targeted at less tangible elements such as the organisational culture regarding research.
Achieving prosperity for all within planetary boundaries requires that governments take wide-ranging transformative action, but achieving ‘triple-wins’ by joining up policies across economic, social and environmental realms can be challenging. A companion analysis undertaken under the ODI Nexus project () analysed key indicators in these realms in lower income countries and identified the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka and Thailand as front-runners in achieving more holistic development outcomes. Looking deeper at these case studies, we sought to identify national policy interventions that struck a balance between the different realms of development and explored the policy development, legislation and implementation processes required for integrated transformational policy to succeed.
In each we found national-scale, triple-win policies led from the president’s or prime minister’s office. These policies can usually be traced to specific political moments that forced a reckoning with the failures of previous development policy, often resulting in radical change of direction in development planning. Yet, despite the existence of triple-win policies, as of 2019, there was limited evidence of triple-win outcomes being achieved. Instead, the case study countries typically performed well in one or two realms, often to the detriment of progress in the other(s).
We present potential reasons for the lacklustre impact of these policies and conclude with suggestions for future work to outline where in the policy landscape it may be possible to enact transformational nexus policies and how to support them to achieve their outcomes in the timeframes required to ensure equitable prosperity within planetary boundaries.
The current design of UK public policy and mainstream political and social discourse has consistently equated paid work with good citizenship and desirable parenting. The article presents findings from a recent qualitative study that explores how lone mothers with different moral rationalities judge themselves before and after making a transition from welfare (and being full-time carers) to paid work. The findings suggest that the design of public policy and related discourses worked well with the moral rationalities of some lone mothers who believed that paid work made them better mothers. However, it left others with moral values on direct care behind, as they suffered from physical and emotional exhaustion and feelings of guilt in paid work. The article highlights how dominant ideologies reinforce the pre-existing hierarchy of paid work and care, with the latter being viewed as deserving of less acknowledgement.
This paper discusses the findings of a research project on disability and leadership in the voluntary sector. It describes findings from interviews with disabled leaders in voluntary organisations, identifying key themes around stigma and disclosure; inclusion in the workplace; learning from disabled leaders; and capacity and confidence.
Understanding knowledge utilisation in policymaking is a core task for the social and political sciences. However, limitations and biases abound in commonplace approaches to measuring such use. Consequently, we have little systematic evidence of the extent to which knowledge sources are used in policy decisions.
Aims and objectives
This article discusses existing approaches to studying knowledge utilisation and introduces the analytical approach, Knowledge Utilisation Analysis (KUA), which harnesses the growing quantities of documents available online.
KUA offers a four-step procedure that enables researchers to systematically compare policy documents with knowledge sources and measure the degree to which policy decisions follow or contradict relevant knowledge.
The article showcases KUA in a study of Danish primary education and active labour market policies from 2016 to 2021. By analysing 1,159 documents, KUA is leveraged to study levels of knowledge utilisation across policy areas, research methods, and provider types.
Discussion and conclusion
KUA contributes methodological innovation to measuring knowledge utilisation by systematically matching knowledge sources with policy decisions. KUA can, thereby, enhance empirical research on the relationship between knowledge and policy.
Scholars of childhood typically view children as agentic; poverty researchers, aware that poverty reduces children’s life-chances, may be tempted to consider them as victims. Adults experiencing poverty report feelings of powerlessness, and, by analogy, poverty may reduce children’s agency. However, comparatively little is known about the impact of poverty on child agency or the extent to which children use their agency to mediate the effects of poverty. Therefore, 55 low-income children from two Chinese schools were invited to participate in group discussions and qualitative interviews spread over several hours. Considering poverty to be multidimensional, children identified that their agency was restricted both by poverty and their status as children but argued that they were not without agency. This was confirmed in interviews with parents and teachers. Six strategies were identified that children use to ameliorate poverty’s effects. The strategies group into three pairs, the first strategy in each pair reflecting a child’s decision to accommodate to their circumstances with the second being an attempt to alter them. The first pair (norm adaptation and active communication) comprised coping strategies addressing the present; the second pair (self-improvement and self-sacrifice) were expressions of constructive agency; and the third pair (lowered expectations and rebellion) were partially acts of despair. Giving greater recognition to children’s attempts to improve the lives of their families and themselves may lead to more effective modes of policy intervention.