Evaluating the Research to Policy Collaboration

Evaluating the first RCT of knowledge brokering in the US Congress


There have been many attempts to bridge the gap between evidence producers and evidence users; to straddle the science-policy interface. Few interventions in this space have been robustly evaluated, and even fewer developed from the basis of sound evidence and theory.

Much of the literature on evidence-based policy suggests that increased collaboration and/or improved relationships between evidence producers and users would lead to increased evidence use. The Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC) was designed to test this assumption, by bringing together groups of researchers and legislative staffers with shared interests. 

Through comparison with a control group, the RPC aimed to test whether their multi-component intervention (training, facilitated in-person discussions, provision of policy briefs, contact-matching and follow-up discussions) improved evidence use in the US Congress. 

Our Approach

Transforming Evidence have conducted over 70 interviews, and over 20 hours of observations to robustly evaluate this intervention and explore (a) whether the RPC met its goals, and how, and (b) how the intervention evolved in the real world.

Our interview questions can be found here, and a discussion of the history of the RPC as an intervention here

This what we’ve learned so far

Quantitative evaluation alongside our own ethnography showed increased use of evidence (measured in citations and phrase uptake). 

Our emerging findings suggest that:

- the intervention evolved over time, becoming less intensive for participants, and moving towards being a knowledge brokerage model

- RPC staff envisaged the intervention living beyond the research, becoming a brand name and worthy long-term scheme

- relationships produced tended to be instrumental rather than "professional friendships", which may have been suitable for the goals of participants

- Contextual and environmental factors continue to influence the culture of evidence use 

- The wider research-policy system does not function optimally for the delivery of policy-relevant, useful research at the point of need

Outputs and findings

The use of research evidence: An ethnographic study of policymakers and researchers 

Lawmakers Use of Scientific Evidence Can Be Improved. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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