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- Author or Editor: Kathryn Oliver x
Articulating the research priorities of government is one mechanism for promoting the production of relevant research to inform policy. This study focuses on the Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) produced and published by government departments in the UK. Through a qualitative study consisting of interviews with 25 researchers, civil servants, intermediaries and research funders, the authors explored the role of ARIs. Using the concept of boundary objects, the paper considers the ways in which ARIs are used and how they are supported by boundary practices and boundary workers, including through engagement opportunities. The paper addresses the following questions: What boundaries do ARIs cross, intended and otherwise? What characteristics of ARIs enable or hinder this boundary-crossing? and What resources, skills, work or conditions are required for this boundary-crossing to work well? We see the ARIs being used as a boundary object across multiple boundaries, with implications for the ways in which the ARIs are crafted and shared. In the application of ARIs in the UK policy context, we see a constant interplay between boundary objects, practices and people all operating within the confines of existing systems and processes. For example, understanding what was meant by a particular ARI sometimes involved ‘decoding’ work as part of the academic-policy engagement process. While ARIs have an important role to play they are no magic bullet. Nor do they tell the whole story of governmental research interests. Optimizing the use of research in policy making requires the galvanisation of a range of mechanisms, including ARIs.
Despite the known need for empirical research-to-policy studies, little is known about the factors and conditions needed to support meaningful evidence use or how to intervene to promote quality evidence use.
Aims and objectives:
To study research-policy processes empirically and descriptively, we conducted an ethnography that focused on the impact of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC) on legislator and researcher evidence use or policy engagement, including whether and how researchers and policymakers created and sustained meaningful relationships.
The ethnography included participant observation as well as pre- and post- semi-structured interviews from policymakers (n=17), researchers (n=23), and RPC staff (n=5). The team attended relevant events as well as observed the formal and informal ways research is used in policymaking.
In the paper, we describe how 1) legislative priorities were identified; 2) networks were established and maintained; 3) trainings evolved over time; 4) relationships between RPC staff, congressional staff, and researchers were facilitated; and 5) RPC followed up with policymakers and researchers.
Discussion and conclusions:
We 1) describe the experiences of participants and whether involvement in the intervention changed attitudes or behaviours about evidence use in policy; 2) describe the RPC process in practice, and how it was implemented and evolved over time; and 3) better understand the conditions supporting evidence use in policymaking. We conclude with the value of the RPC as a resource to fill a niche within the evidence and policy space, as well as suggestions for future research-to-policy programmes and practices.
Drawing lessons from research can help policy makers make better decisions. If a large and methodologically varied body of research exists, as with childhood obesity, this is challenging. We present new research and policy objectives for child obesity developed by triangulating user involvement data with a mapping study of interventions aimed at reducing child obesity. The results suggest that enhancing mental wellbeing should be a policy objective, and greater involvement of peers and parents in the delivery of obesity interventions would be beneficial. We conclude that exploiting the evidence base through triangulation is a useful and valid method.
To improve the use of evidence in policy and practice, many organisations and individuals seek to promote research-policy engagement activities, but little is known about what works.
Aims and objectives:
We sought (a) to identify existing research-policy engagement activities, and (b) evidence on impacts of these activities on research and decision making.
We conducted systematic desk-based searches for organisations active in this area (such as funders, practice organisations, and universities) and reviewed websites, strategy documents, published evaluations and relevant research. We used a stakeholder roundtable, and follow-up survey and interviews, with a subset of the sample to check the quality and robustness of our approach.
We identified 1923 initiatives in 513 organisations world-wide. However, we found only 57 organisations had publicly-available evaluations, and only 6% (141/2321) of initiatives were evaluated. Most activities aim to improve research dissemination or create relationships. Existing evaluations offer an often rich and nuanced picture of evidence use in particular settings (such as local government), sectors (such as policing), or by particular providers (such as learned societies), but are extremely scarce.
Discussion and conclusions:
Funders, research- and decision-making organisations have contributed to a huge expansion in research-policy engagement initiatives. Unfortunately, these initiatives tend not to draw on existing evidence and theory, and are mostly unevaluated. The rudderless mass of activity therefore fails to provide useful lessons for those wishing to improve evidence use, leading to wasted time and resources. Future initiatives should draw on existing evidence about what works, seek to contribute to this evidence base, and respond to a more realistic picture of the decision-making context.