Mapping research-policy engagement initiatives internationally

We are exploring forms of engagement between academic research and governments: what has been tried, by whom, to what effect, and using which mechanisms.


To improve the use of evidence in policy and practice, many organisations and individuals seek to promote research-policy engagement activities. These range from long-term research collaborations between universities and governments, to networking events and fellowship schemes. For researchers and research funders, the 'impact agenda' has encouraged efforts to engage with and influence policy. In government, policymakers and civil servants aim to 'pull' evidence in to government in many ways. Despite growing investments at the interface of research and policy, we still don't know what effective engagement looks like, or how best to support it.

This project has mapped initiatives that aim to improve government-academic engagement around the world. An important piece of foundational research, it reflects Transforming Evidence’s cross-sectoral, international focus. We are sharing learning with those working on policy engagement internationally.

Our Approach

We mapped the activities of 428 organisations running 1923 research-policy engagement initiatives in over 40 countries. We have analysed how initiatives aim to connect research with government - from those focused on linear approaches to sharing and communicating research, to relational models focused on collaboration and skills, through to systems-informed approaches, that aims to create new infrastructures and embed cultures of evidence use.

Our analysis aims to expand our understanding of what works in government-academic engagement and why. We developed a framework to analyse policy engagement activities, building on work published by Best and Holmes on the 'three generations of thinking about evidence use'

This 14-month project combined workshops, interviews and an online survey with a desk-based web-search and documentary analysis. Our approach was informed by engagement with stakeholders from universities, funders, intermediaries, government and policy bodies.

Outputs and findings

Due to high levels of interest we are happy to share a pre-publication version of our article, 'What works to promote research-policy engagement?'.

We are also making available a supplementary file summarising the evaluation studies we found and a full list of the organisations and initiatives we mapped.

An open access article 'Are research-policy engagement activities informed by policy theory and evidence? 7 challenges to the UK impact agenda' is also forthcoming in Policy, Design and Practice.

Please contact us to arrange a conversation about this project.

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