Economics is now central to health policy decision making, within government departments and the National Health Service. We examine how and why a health economics academic unit – the Centre for Health Economics (CHE) at the University of York, England – was created in 1983, funded and commissioned to provide research evidence to the British government, specifically the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) and its successors. Building on the knowledge transfer literature, we document the origins of this relationship and the different strategies deployed by successive governments and researchers. This paper demonstrates the value of historical methodologies such as oral history and textual analysis that highlight the limitations of existing knowledge transfer theories, by foregrounding the role of politics via the construction of individual relationships between academics and policy-makers.
Government-funded knowledge brokering organisations (KBOs) are an increasingly prevalent yet under-researched area. Working in the space between knowledge and policy, yet framing themselves as different from think tanks and academic research centres, these organisations broker evidence into policy.
Aims and objectives:
This article examines how three organisations on different continents develop similar narratives and strategies to attempt to inform policymaking and build legitimacy.
Using documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews, it shows how the organisations construct their credibility and legitimacy, and make sense of their emergence, activities and relationships with policymakers.
The study responds to the lack of political focus on many existing studies, examining how KBOs make sense of their origins and roles, articulating notions of evidence, and mobilising different types of legitimacies to do so. The research also addresses an empirical gap surrounding the emergence and activities of KBOs (not individuals), analysing organisations on three different continents.
Discussion and conclusions:
KBOs developed similar narratives of origins and functions, despite emerging in different contexts. Furthermore, they build their legitimacy/ies in similar ways. Our research improves our understanding of how a new ‘tool’ in the evidence-informed policymaking (EIPM) arsenal – KBOs – is being mobilised by different governments in similar ways.
The claim that evidence-based policy (EBP) produces better outcomes has gained increasing support over the last three decades. Knowledge brokering (KB) is seen as a way to achieve improved policymaking and governments worldwide are investing significant resources in KB initiatives. It is therefore important to understand the range of these activities and to investigate whether and how they facilitate EBP. This article critically reviews the extant literature on KB. It identifies six important limitations: the existence of multiple definitions of KB; a lack of theory-based empirical analysis; a neglect of knowledge brokering organisations; insufficient research on KB in social policy; limited analysis of impact and effectiveness; and a lack of attention to the role played by politics. The paper proposes an agenda for future research that bridges disciplinary boundaries in order to address these gaps and contribute new insights into the politics of evidence use.