Evidence-based policy-making can be problematic in practice, especially if the evidence is uncertain. Based on a case study concerning the formation of a national-level policy position in Ireland in response to an EU initiative, Niamh Hardiman and Saliha Metinsoy suggest that policy makers’ decisions may well be guided by beliefs that go beyond the direct evidence available. Ideas can be so deep-rooted that […]
Building on Katherine Dommett’s and Warren Pearce’s recent post on the evidence for public trust in experts, Matt Wood argues that whilst the death of the expert has been oversold, the question of how expertise is put to use in modern democracies remains an unresolved dilemma. Drawing on research underpinning his recent book, Hyper-active Governance, he suggests that competing […]
Third mission accomplished? Why are universities bad at engaging with local and regional government and what we can do about it.
Universities are increasingly called upon to engage with local and regional government, namely as part of a ‘third academic mission’, but how effectively do they incentivize academics to do so? Using evidence from her study of the University of Aveiro, Liliana Fonseca explores the barriers that hinder engagement with these institutions and makes recommendations for how universities could expand […]
Engaging with Parliament: what is good Select Committee evidence?
One way of trying to make an impact with one’s research is to use it to provide evidence and information to one of Parliament’s Select Committees. Victoria Honour offers some insight into how these committees and their inquiries work, and how academics can engage with them; including practical advice on how to structure […]
Less than 5% of papers on the use of research in health policymaking tested interventions to see what worked. But those studies reveal a number of strategies for improvement
Population health policies stand a much better chance of succeeding if they’re informed by research evidence. But what are the best ways of making sure this happens? Danielle Campbell and Gabriel Moore conducted a rapid review of the literature on the subject and found that very few studies actually concerned testing interventions to see whether they worked. Those articles […]
The perpetual tango: what exactly is “evidence-informed policymaking” premised on and working towards?
Given the field of evidence-informed policymaking has existed for some time, experts’ confusion, knowledge gaps, and inconsistencies around the fundamentals is bewildering. Reporting on a recent Ontario case study, Jacqueline Sohn considers how evidence-informed policymaking works in practice, likening the swift and abrupt movements that eventually lead to policies being developed to a perpetual tango, and reveals how research […]
Can a concept derived from the natural sciences be applied to the political and social sciences? Sarah Quarmby consider whether complex systems thinking, currently enjoying a moment of popularity in the policy research and practice worlds despite having no single accepted definition, can add to our understanding of policy. And is it really a new approach?
Complex systems thinking is […]
Data-driven technologies have been a transformative force in society. However, while such innovations are often viewed as a positive development, discriminatory biases embedded in these technologies can serve to compound problems for society’s more vulnerable groups. Having recently published a report on automated discrimination in data-driven systems, Jędrzej Niklas and Seeta Peña Gangadharan explain how algorithms discriminate, why this […]
There is an accepted need to bridge the gap between academic research and public policy. Knowledge brokers, individuals or organisations sympathetic to both research and policymaking cultures and able to mediate between the two, represent one way of doing so. Sarah Quarmby takes a look inside a knowledge broker organisation, the Wales Centre for Public Policy, to see how […]
Mind the skills gap: creating a data access and reuse competency framework for government departments and organisations
Having access to the vital data collected by government departments can make a huge difference to the work of researchers in universities and charities. But for these researchers to actually access and be able to reuse this data is an often painstaking process that can take months or even longer. Richard Welpton suggests this process might be made quicker […]
For China to realise its research and innovation potential the government may have to place greater trust in the academic community
After three decades of being the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, China is now looking to science and technology to drive its economic future. However, a recent study suggests that China’s higher education research environment faces numerous challenges that may hinder the country from realising its research and innovation potential; from the promotion of short-term thinking, to an excessive level of […]
Studies have shown that while many factors affect decision-makers’ use of research, evidence of what particular engagement actions actually work is very limited. Indeed, increasing access to research appears to be the only intervention to reliably increase use. The Conversation is a free-to-access research communication platform designed to be accessible to general audiences. Pauline Zardo reports on The Conversation […]
A lack of access and poor communication are often cited as reasons why academic research is not widely used by policymakers. But what about the challenges for researchers engaging with decision-makers such as parliaments? Lindsay Walker, Lindsey Pike, Marsha Wood and Hannah Durrant have surveyed more than 400 research professionals and identified some clear barriers, with heavy workloads and […]
Research assessment exercises provide the government and wider public with assurance of the quality of university research, with the guiding principles being accountability, transparency, and openness. But is there the same accountability and openness when it comes to the public cost of these large-scale exercises? Ksenia Sawczak examines the situation in Australia as the research sector looks ahead to […]
In A University Education, former Minister of State for Universities and Science (2010-14) David Willetts sets out the changes he fostered during his four-year ministry and his views on what still needs to be transformed, alongside a scholarly appreciation of how the current higher education system and its particularly British (mainly English) features have evolved. In this review, Ron Johnston […]
Where are we with responsible metrics? And where might we go next? Reflections from two recent events
Widespread scepticism and concern among researchers, universities, representative bodies and learned societies about the broader use of metrics in research assessment and management has led to concerted efforts to promote the “responsible use” of such metrics. But how effectively are UK higher education institutions engaging with this agenda? Lizzie Gadd reflects on two recent responsible metrics-themed events. While it […]
Shorter timeframes, co-designed, with “first-cut” insights: how university policy research can become more responsive to the needs of policymakers
How might universities develop a research agenda that is responsive to the needs of policymakers? After running a series of workshops on public policy innovation with policy practitioners from various levels of government in Australia, Tamas Wells and Emma Blomkamp identified three ways in which policy research might become more “user-centred”: more variety in the timeframes of research projects, […]
An emerging iron cage? Understanding the risks of increased use of big data applications in social policy
Big data technologies are increasingly being utilised in the field of social policy. Although big data methods and strategies are often preferred as a form of evidence-based policy development, big data techniques do not necessarily guarantee scientific objectivity. Hamish Robertson and Joanne Travaglia discuss concerns about the rapid growth in big data methods being used to inform and shape […]