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What is ‘translation’, and how might it help us think differently about knowledge transfer and exchange? The purpose of this article is to set out, for policy makers and practitioners, the theoretical and conceptual resources that translation holds and seems to represent. It begins by recasting research, policy and practice themselves as instances of translation. It explores understandings of translation in literature and linguistics and in the sociology of science and technology, developing them in respect of a brief case study of the seminal women’s health text, Our bodies, ourselves. In concluding, it picks up key themes of uncertainty, practice and complexity.

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Articles in the Research Provocations section do not simply summarise an existing debate, theme or body of scholarship. Instead, they offer fresh perspectives, develop theoretical advancements and highlight emergent research agendas. This section offers the opportunity for authors to launch high-profile critiques, to showcase acute but comprehensive contributions and to initiate challenging dialogues.

In this Research Provocation, Richard Freeman presents an engaging and thoughtprovoking proposition that existing accounts of the policy process have neglected microlevel practices of politics (talk and text), and consequently have have marginalised the micro-sites of policymaking (the gathering, the encounter and the meeting). To make this argument, he brings together literature from the fields of sociology, political theory and public administration, and makes a case for reconsidering what exactly constitutes the practice of policymaking.

Do you agree with Richard’s argument? To what extent does this account reflect your own academic or practitioner experience? Would you like to respond to Richard’s argument in the pages of Policy & Politics? If so, please get in touch with us to discuss it further!

Our prevailing accounts of the policy process are challenged by studies of practice as well as by practitioners themselves. This paper sets out an alternative, grounded in politics and sociology and informed by recent work in related disciplines. Drawing on the foundational work of Arendt and Goffman, it begins in the essential dynamics of the gathering, the encounter and the meeting. It considers the extent to which each is realised in talk, and in the production and reproduction of texts. Policy and politics seek to establish and maintain a ‘definition of the situation’ and what might follow from it: the purpose of the paper is to match theoretical and empirical accounts of this process with the activity and experience of its practitioners.

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The comparative study of what tend to be regarded as marginal questions of health policy, such as prevention, is developing slowly. This case study covers important developments in preventive policy making in the Federal Republic of Germany in the period 1968–1990. The paper is intended both as a descriptive summary of institutional arrangements for prevention in health and as a preliminary analytical essay. It considers the evolving positional interests of federal and state governments, the public health service, the sickness insurance funds and the medical profession. It looks in detail at constitutional conflict over prevention at the end of the 1960s, at the progressivism of health policy conceptions of the early 1970s, at the liberal conservatism which characterised the 1980s and at the place of prevention in health care reform legislation. It refers to responses to HIV and AIDS and comments on the extent to which the circumstances of preventive policy making in health have changed with unification. The paper concludes by discussing the importance of the German case in developing ideas about the role played by prevention in health politics.

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What are the practices of policy making? In this paper, we seek to identify and understand them by attending to one of the principal artefacts – the document – through which they are organised. We review the different ways in which researchers have understood documents and their function in public policy, endorsing a focus on content but noting that the processes by which documents are produced and used have been left largely unexamined. We specify our understanding of the document as an artefact, exploring aspects of its materiality in both paper and electronic forms. The key characteristic of the policy document, we suggest, is the way it is produced and used collectively, in groups.

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Embodied, inscribed, enacted

This important collection presents a radical reconception of the place of knowledge in contemporary policymaking in Europe, based not on assumptions about evidence, expertise or experience but on the different forms that knowledge takes.

Knowledge is embodied in people, inscribed in documents and instruments, and enacted in specific circumstances. Empirical case studies of health and education policy in different national and international contexts demonstrate the essential interdependence of different forms and phases of knowledge. They illustrate the ways in which knowledge is mobilised and resisted, and draw attention to key problems in the processing and transformation of knowledge in policy work.

This novel theoretical framework offers real benefits for policymakers, academics in public policy, public administration, management studies, sociology, education, public health and social work, and those with a practical interest in education and health and related fields of public policy.

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The literature on the role of knowledge in policy making encompasses a striking diversity of views on just what knowledge is, what different types of knowledge there may be and how they are to be observed empirically. In this paper, we propose a new phenomenology of knowledge based not on ‘who knows what, how and why’ but on the form that knowledge takes. Drawing a simple analogy with the three phases of matter - solid, liquid and gas - we argue that knowledge too exists in three phases, which we characterise as embodied, inscribed and enacted. And just as matter may pass from one phase to another, so too knowledge moves and is transformed, through various kinds of action, between phases. We conclude by discussing some of the implications of our perspective for future work, both in research and policy.

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As a knowledge-based international agency, WHO offers a useful opportunity to explore the nature of knowledge in policy making. Between 12 and 15 January 2005, a WHO Ministerial Conference on Mental Health in Europe took place in Helsinki: the Declaration and Action Plan it approved quickly became a touchstone for subsequent developments in mental health policy in Europe. Our discussion sets out just how embodied, inscribed and enacted knowledges are deployed in the production, development and dissemination of a policy initiative.

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We sum up this volume by restating our initial ambition, which was to develop a framework for investigation rather than to formulate any specific theory. We turn to each element of our model - embodied, inscribed, enacted - in turn, and consider what we have learned from their application and elaboration in the case studies collected here. We identify the implications of our work both for research design and method and for practice, and close by reflecting more abstractly on the relationship between knowledge and policy.

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This important collection presents a radical reconception of the place of knowledge in contemporary policy making in Europe, based not on assumptions about evidence, expertise or experience but on the different forms that knowledge takes. Knowledge is embodied in people, inscribed in documents and instruments, and enacted in specific circumstances. Empirical case studies of health and education policy in different national and international contexts demonstrate the essential interdependence of different forms and phases of knowledge. They illustrate the ways in which knowledge is mobilized and resisted, and draw attention to key problems in the processing and transformation of knowledge in policy work. This novel theoretical framework offers real benefits for policy makers, academics in public policy, public administration, management studies, sociology, education, public health and social work, and those with a practical interest in education and health and related fields of public policy.

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This important collection presents a radical reconception of the place of knowledge in contemporary policy making in Europe, based not on assumptions about evidence, expertise or experience but on the different forms that knowledge takes. Knowledge is embodied in people, inscribed in documents and instruments, and enacted in specific circumstances. Empirical case studies of health and education policy in different national and international contexts demonstrate the essential interdependence of different forms and phases of knowledge. They illustrate the ways in which knowledge is mobilized and resisted, and draw attention to key problems in the processing and transformation of knowledge in policy work. This novel theoretical framework offers real benefits for policy makers, academics in public policy, public administration, management studies, sociology, education, public health and social work, and those with a practical interest in education and health and related fields of public policy.

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