Evaluating Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE)

Generating evidence about effective, sustainable and equitable academic-policy engagement


Academic-policy engagement has hugely expanded as an area for investment by research funders in the UK. Increasing opportunities for interaction between researchers and policymakers is one mechanism to potentially increase evidence use.

Transforming Evidence has evaluated a large academic-policy engagement initiative over the last four years. CAPE is a Research-England funded project which aims to better understand and to enhance academic-policy engagement in different geographical and policy contexts across England. CAPE delivered four types of collaborative academic-policy engagement activities (seed-funding, training, knowledge exchange and fellowships).

Our Approach

Our goals for the evaluation were to:

- Establish the evidence about promising approaches to university-policy engagement through a best evidence review

- Inform the development and testing of new approaches to be tested through the project and

- Capture ongoing learning and connect with the wider community of scholars and practitioners who will benefit from and can inform this work

To learn more about how CAPE was delivering academic-policy engagement, and the experiences of participants, and impacts, we conducted observations, interviews, and a survey.

This what we’ve learned so far

We found that seed funding was the most well-received approach to academic-policy engagement, which was found to be a low-cost and low-burden (in terms of reporting and resources) intervention. Fellowships were also valued to improve connectivity, but were more costly and benefitted a smaller pool of participants. Knowledge exchange and training improved connectivity and attitudes. 

We found across the board that it was easier for more experienced HEI and policy staff to make the most of engagement opportunities, with those newer to engagement often needing support to navigate effectively. Organisational factors such as local support and recognition for engagement also affected individuals' ability to make the most of opportunities. In practice, this means that sustainable and equitable acaedmic-polciy engagement requires long-term support, with institutional commitment to expanding access within HEIs. 

Key lessons for funders and future initiatives:

  • Academic-policy engagement is has costs as well as benefits. Future initiatives and funders should be mindful about whose priorities are being addressed through engagement schemes, and where the costs and benefits are realised. 
  • Costs are more likely to be minimised where there is strategic coordination and focus, because engagement activities are more likely to address defined needs and less likely to duplicate existing activities.
  • Sharing learning about engagement practices and impacts is important to continue to improve and share best practice. 

More available in our blog now. 

Outputs and findings

The final report of the evaluation is now available as a pre-print, while we await final corrections and proofing. A final report will be published by the beginning of July 2024. 

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