Much has been written about evidence-informed policy and practice, research impact and knowledge exchange (or mobilisation/brokerage). A literature which is growing in response to the pressures of the impact agenda and the demands of the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
A recent paper by Paul Cairney and Kathryn Oliver on How should academics engage in policymaking to achieve impact? provides a very helpful overview of the literature of how scholars might influence policy by variously ‘pushing’ their evidence towards policymakers and the difficulties and dilemmas of achieving an impact.
Academics might be getting better at presenting their evidence and describing the complexities of the policymaking environment, but how much is understood about the people reading, and hopefully using, the evidence?
Far less has been written about the ‘pull’ of evidence-informed policy – the capacity, capability, opportunities and incentives of policymakers to seek out and use evidence. How, why and when do policymakers obtain evidence? Academics might be getting better at presenting their evidence and describing the complexities of the policymaking environment, but how much is understood about the people reading, and hopefully using, the evidence?
For people outside academia with an interest in policymaking, there may be a great deal of useful and insightful material generated by academics, but it is often difficult to find. How is this evidence, mostly discussed within academic circles and hidden behind paywalls, expected to reach policymakers?
My observation of policymaking, at least in Scotland and in health, is that most day-to-day policy work rests on the twin pillars of Google and asking people we know. Thus, as a starting point, if academics want their evidence to be used, they – and their evidence – need to be visible.
In September 2018, tweets from a Nuffield Foundation workshop led me to Transforming Evidence. The objective “to improve how the community of scholars, funders and practitioners/policymakers share their knowledge and expertise” seems eminently sensible and much needed.
Under the broad umbrella of evidence-informed policy and practice, I have been compiling a list of organisations and people to follow and learn from in order to explore two questions:
Who is saying interesting and useful things about ways to improve the policy making process?
Who is producing innovative and actionable health policy ideas?
Kathryn Oliver kindly offered to post the list on this website and to ask the community for their comments and suggestions. I would welcome your thoughts.
David Cline is Head of Innovation Policy (Health), Chief Scientist Office, Directorate for Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government. David.Cline@gov.scot
Photo: Scottish Parliament, Image by Waldo Miguez from Pixabay