Social and Public Policy > Social Policy

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Author:

Background:

This comment piece responds to points raised by Steve Johnson in ‘The policy impact of entrepreneurship research: challenging received wisdom’ (Evidence & Policy, Early view, https://doi.org/10.1332/174426422X16596963542147).

Aims and objectives:

The practical purpose of this commentary is to illustrate and discuss the relationship between entrepreneurship research, implementation, and policy impact.

Commentary:

The commentary offers insights into how researchers can make a difference to policy learning through engaged scholarship. Three contributions to knowledge on entrepreneurship research and policy learning are presented.

Findings:

First, the commentary develops the connection between engaged scholarship, entrepreneurship research and policy learning by highlighting the dynamics that underpin and sustain engaged scholarship. Second, entrepreneurship research and policy impact are brought into contact with engaged scholarship to develop practical relevance. Third, I illuminate the paradox between the theory and practise of policy integration.

Discussion and conclusions:

Building on the ideas presented by Steve Johnson in his paper, ‘The policy impact of entrepreneurship research: challenging received wisdom’, I address the gap between conceptualisation of entrepreneurship and the dynamics of implementation and policy learning, which all too often remains implicit within extant studies in entrepreneurship research.

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Background:

Taxation of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages is considered a key policy for improving population-level nutrition. Implementation is influenced by the way evidence is used and framed in public debates. At this time, no sugar tax has been implemented in Germany.

Aims and objectives:

This study aims to deepen the understanding of the political dynamics that influence the adoption of sugar taxes by analysing the use of evidence in the German media debate on sugar taxation and comparing its findings with analyses from other countries.

Methods:

In 114 German newspaper articles, published between 01/2018 and 03/2019, we analysed the use and framing of evidence with an abductive thematic analysis approach. We compared our findings with analyses on the framing around sugar taxation from Mexico, the US and the UK.

Findings:

Evidence was a salient component of the German debate. As in the comparison countries, evidence was used by both tax proponents and opponents but framed differently, for example, regarding problem definitions. However, the German debate relied more strongly on examples from other countries and less on economic arguments.

Discussion and conclusions:

Our findings suggest that German tax proponents should proactively consider economic arguments and counter spurious arguments made by tax opponents. Researchers should be aware of their work’s potential international spillover effects, and public health advocates should correct expectations regarding the evidence on, and health effects of, isolated measures against obesity. To deepen the understanding of the German policy process, further research should involve social media, public documents and stakeholder networks.

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Background:

There has been little applied learning from organisations engaged in making evidence useful for decision makers. More focus has been given either to the work of individuals as knowledge brokers or to theoretical frameworks on embedding evidence. More intelligence is needed on the practice of knowledge intermediation.

Aims and objectives:

This paper describes the evolution of approaches by one UK Centre to promote and embed evidence in health and care services. This is not a formal evaluation, given the lack of critical distance by authors who led work at the Centre, but a reflective analysis which may be helpful for other evidence intermediary bodies.

Conclusions:

We analyse the founding conditions and theoretical context at the start of our activity and describe four activities we developed over time. These were filter (screening research for relevance and quality); forge (engaging stakeholders in interpreting evidence); fuse (knowledge brokering with hybrid teams); and fulfil (sustained interaction with implementation partners). We reflect on the tensions between rigour and relevance in the evidence we shared and the way in which our approaches evolved from a programme of evidence outputs to greater focus on sustained engagement and deliberative activities to make sense of evidence and reach wider audiences. Over the lifetime of the Centre, we moved from linear and relational modes towards systems type approaches to embed and mobilise evidence.

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Background:

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.

Methods:

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.

Findings:

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.

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Background:

Knowledge brokers in higher education are described as requiring a broad range of skills and characteristics, leading to both role conflict and ambiguity. Although existing studies report broad concepts regarding the role of knowledge brokers, the activities that they actually perform to broker knowledge are not systematically reported or impact evaluated.

Aims and objectives:

This paper aims to summarise the current literature on the role of knowledge brokers and describe this role in a higher education context. In an exploratory study, as two knowledge brokers we recorded our activities within a school of health in a large university setting using the Expert Recommendations for Implementation Change (ERIC) categories over a period of nine months. Using this report, we use the analogy of a musical to translate the role of knowledge broker. Considering the knowledge brokerage roles of musical director, set designer, choreographer, costume designer and sound and lighting, we discuss the impact of knowledge brokerage activities on actors relaying their knowledge story to an end-user audience. Knowledge brokers in the higher education context primarily perform activities in four areas: know your cast and crew; train your cast and crew; rehearse and review; and provide hands-on support.

Key conclusions:

Understanding the role of knowledge brokers may be enhanced by using the analogy of a musical. Due to the diverse nature of these roles, it is recommended that knowledge brokerage in higher education is performed in teams, where knowledge brokers can utilise different skill sets to facilitate their work.

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Background:

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.

Methods:

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.

Findings:

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.

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Background:

For women with straightforward pregnancies midwifery units (MUs) are associated with improved maternal outcomes and experiences, similar neonatal outcomes, and lower costs than obstetric units. There is growing interest and promotion of MUs and midwifery-led care among European health policymakers and healthcare systems, and units are being developed and opened in countries for the first time or are increasing in number. To support this implementation, it is crucial that practice guidelines and improvement frameworks are in place, in order to ensure that MUs are and remain well-functioning.

Aims and objectives:

This project focused on the stakeholder engagement and collaboration with MUs to implement the Midwifery Unit Self-Assessment (MUSA) Tool in European MUs. A rapid participatory appraisal was conducted with midwives and stakeholders from European MUs to explore the clarity and usability of the tool, to understand how it helps MUs identifying areas for further improvement, and to identify the degree of support maternity services need in this process.

Key conclusions:

Engagement and co-production principles used in the case studies were perceived as empowering by all stakeholders. A fresh-eye view from the external facilitators on dynamics within the MU and its relationship with the obstetric unit was highly valued. However, micro-, meso- and macro-levels of organisational change and their associated stakeholders need to be further represented in the MUSA-Tool. The improvement plans generated from it should also reflect these micro-, meso- and macro-level considerations in order to identify the key actors for further implementation and integration of MUs into European health services.

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Background:

Seeing how governments formulate decisions on our behalf is a crucial component of their ability to claim democratic legitimacy. This includes being seen to draw on the knowledge and evidence produced by their civil service policy advisers. Yet much of the advice provided to governments is being increasingly withdrawn from public accessibility.

Aims and objectives:

To counter this diminishing transparency, I propose a framework for observing how evidence is made and used in the political decision-making process. Although my framework is constructed within the Australian context, I hope to encourage its use in other government and policy settings.

Methods:

Using an example from my own research into the language of rejected policy advice, I construct a framework for locating how policy actors formulate and communicate their evidence. With primary material drawn from Freedom of Information releases, my framework qualitatively examines three impact factors with which to situate policy advice: text, organisational influences and the interplay between the front and back regions of politics and policy. To counter releases’ limitations, they are contextualised with publicly available, contemporaneous statements.

Findings:

Text displayed excessive detail, inviting multiple interpretations. Organisational influences suggested an insular culture over-reliant on its reputation. Interplay linked to evidence as ostensibly authority-imparting but ultimately adding to the lack of transparency around how political decisions were made.

Discussion and conclusions:

Even when processes are hidden from public view, they can be found. By connecting an array of impact factors, my framework here illuminated a complex choreography of civil servants communicating with their government about a contentious policy issue and revealed the political affordances they enabled in the process.

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Background:

Recent complex and cross-boundary policy problems, such as climate change, pandemics, and financial crises, have recentred debates about state capacity, democratic discontent and the ‘crisis of expertise’. These problems are contested and open to redefinition, misunderstanding, spin, and deception, challenging the ability of policymakers to locate, discriminate, comprehend, and respond to competing sources of knowledge and expertise. We argue that ‘non-knowledge’ is an under-explored aspect of responses to major policy crises.

Key points:

While discussed in recent work in sociology and other social sciences, non-knowledge has been given less explicit attention in policy studies, and is not fully captured by orthodox understandings of knowledge and evidence use. We outline three main forms of non-knowledge that challenge public agencies: amnesia, ignorance and misinformation. In each case, ‘non-knowledge’ is not simply the absence of policy-relevant knowledge. Amnesia refers to what is forgotten, reinvented or ‘unlearned’, while claims of ignorance involve obscuring or casting aside of relevant knowledge that could (or even should) be available. To be misinformed is to actively believe false or misleading information. In each instance, non-knowledge may have strategic value for policy actors or aid the pursuit of self-interest.

Conclusions and implications:

We demonstrate the relevance of non-knowledge through a brief case study, emerging from the inquiry into the COVID-19 hotel quarantine programme in the Australian state of Victoria. We argue that both amnesia and ‘practical’ forms of ignorance contributed to failures during the early part of the programme.

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Author:

Background:

This comment responds to points raised in .

Aims and objectives:

The commentary frames the Hannah et al discussion within other recent moves in the policy field to take ‘non-knowledge’ more seriously.

Methods:

The commentary situates the Hannah et al discussion within the traditional literature on knowledge utilisation in the public policy literature.

Findings:

It is argued that while the Hannah et al article is an advance in thinking in the field it does not deal adequately with earlier efforts and findings in the literature.

Discussion and conclusion:

More work towards ‘An agnotology of the policy studies’ is needed.

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