Research

 

You will find a complete range of our monographs, muti-authored and edited works including peer-reviewed, original scholarly research across the social sciences and aligned disciplines. We publish long and short form research and you can browse the complete Bristol University Press and Policy Press archive of over 1,500 titles.

Policy Press also publishes policy reviews and polemic work which aim to challenge policy and practice in certain fields. These books have a practitioner in mind and are practical, accessible in style, as well as being academically sound and referenced.
 

Books: Research

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The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) was founded in 2013 as part of the ‘first wave’ of What Works Centres and is part of the government’s What Works Network. We are an independent charity with a mission to ensure that effective early intervention is available and is used to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of poor outcomes.

In this chapter, Jo Casebourne gives five lessons from the EIF’s experiences: start with audiences’ need; be clear what you mean by evidence; focus on getting evidence used; build strong partnerships and relationships; and, measure your impact.

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Evidence synthesis, and particularly the creation of systematic reviews, is an often overlooked part of the work of the What Works Network, where most attention goes to larger, flashier and more expensive randomised trials. In this chapter, two leading experts on systematic reviews discuss their use in evidence synthesis, and how, why and when they can be used to great effect.

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In this chapter the editors draw together the learnings from the previous 17 chapters, as well as their own insights into the What Works Network. They produce timely and concrete advice for how to set up a successful What Works Centre, and outline challenges for the future of the network. In addition, they suggest a new format for potential future ‘what works’ initiatives that encourages greater collaboration and less creation of new legal entities.

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This chapter, the first in Part II, focuses on the challenges and criticisms levelled at the What Works Network, and addresses the extent to which they are valid and can be mitigated. It covers ten challenges, including: focusing on the right issues; criticisms of randomised controlled trials; issues extrapolating from one domain or geography to another; what counts as evidence; the issues of areas with no evidence; failures to achieve scale for successful interventions; the difficulty of criticising the government from whom centres receive their funding; the difficulty of measuring outcomes; short-termism; and erasure.

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The Education Endowment Foundation is the What Works Centre for Education, and the first of the 21st-century What Works Centres to be established. Since its founding in 2011, it has funded hundreds of randomised controlled trials in education, and seen dramatic changes in the use of evidence by schools and teachers. In this chapter, the authors cover the Education Endowment Foundation’s approach to evidence generation, evidence synthesis and evidence mobilisation, as well as their thoughts on the future of evidence in education.

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Grassroots movements exist in a number of professions, helping increase demand for evidence as well as aiding in its mobilisation. This chapter, written by a serving police officer about his role as the London coordinator of the Society for Evidence Based Policing, describes how to foster, create and sustain an evidence-based movement at the frontline of a profession.

This chapter is ideal for anyone interested in evidence and trying to create a critical mass of demand within their line of work, or for anyone running an evidence or research organisation who wants to see the outputs of their research made wider user of by a professional group.

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Tackling inequality is, to a certain extent, baked into the What Works Network. The Education Endowment Foundation, for example, is explicitly focused on reducing the attainment gap in education between rich and poor (as defined by eligibility for free school meals). The Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education centre indicates from its name a desire to broaden both attendance and attainment in higher education. Given that there are substantial attendance gaps across racial, disability and poverty lines, there is an explicit focus on inequality. For other centres, the focus on inequality is more tacit, but is clearly a part of their missions.

In this chapter, the authors discuss some of the trade-offs inherent in the What Works Network’s methodological rigour, and how this might prevent us from studying and tackling inequality effectively.

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The Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education is the What Works Centre for higher education access and participation. It is one of several What Works Centres to be incubated inside another organisation (in this case a university), and the authors consider the challenges that this brings. They also cover areas of particular interest in the higher education sector, including: arguments about the importance of empiricism; the increasing need for long-term research funding and focus; greater focus on students succeeding once at university (as well as on getting them into university in the first place); research ethics; data collection and harmonisation; and the role of regulation in finding out and scaling what works.

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This chapter is written by Jonathan Breckon and Professor Annette Boaz. The authors share their personal reflections on the What Works movement as two people who have been intimately involved in it for more than a decade, Breckon as the director of the Alliance for Useful Evidence at Nesta, the UK’s innovation charity, and Boaz as a professor and founder of the journal of Evidence & Policy. They consider what they think are the important elements and events that shaped the network as it currently stands; the important role of leadership; investment and infrastructure (and where this is lacking); the difficulty – and differences – in how centres define evidence; the use of carrots and sticks; and the way that the UK’s devolution journey has also shaped its evidence landscape.

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The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is unusual in that its activities are not tied to a single government department, but instead, arguably touch on the activities of government as a whole – whose job is ultimately to improve the wellbeing of all.

Wellbeing might be the most important thing that government does, but it is not routinely collected administratively in the same way that other outcomes – for example, school grades – are. This chapter discusses the importance of measuring what matters, and how we can improve the inclusion of wellbeing in our thinking.

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