Blog

Should Academics be Expected to Change Policy? Six Reasons Why it is Unrealistic for Research to Drive Policy Change.

Should academics drive policy change

UK social scientists feel a growing pressure to achieve policy change. In reality, this process is more complex than it sounds. James Lloyd looks at six reasons that limit the impact research can have on policy change. None of this should suggest that academic researchers shouldn’t seek to influence policymaking. But more consideration is needed on how best academic evidence can leverage the real-world nature of policymaking.

There has been understandable relief at indications from the government that academic researchers will be exempt from anti-advocacy clauses in research grant contracts. The possibility that academics with publicly funded research grants would not be able to press the government for policy change was clearly unacceptable and anti-democratic.

The Science of Using Research...

the science of using research

Governments all over the world invest large sums of public money into producing knowledge that helps them understand their countries’ complex socioeconomic issues. This knowledge, in the form of research, can be used to formulate potential solutions through public policies and programmes.

But it’s not enough just to produce research. It must also be considered and drawn from when policies are being created. However, a range of barriers might prevent policymakers from accessing and using evidence in their work. To understand the use of evidence, then, it’s important to understand the policymaker. Who is she? What are her incentives and biases? What is her professional and institutional context?

Blog article by Lawrence Langer and Ruth Stewart

Clearing The Fog

Complex Policy Evaluation

Development actors facing pressure to provide more rigorous assessments of their impact on policy and practice need new methods to deliver them.

There is now a broad consensus that the traditional counterfactual analysis leading to the assessment of the net effect of an intervention is incapable of capturing the complexity of factors at play in any particular policy change.

We suggest that evaluations focus instead on establishing whether a clearly-defined process of change has taken place, and improve the validity and credibility of qualitative impact statements.

IIED research in Uganda shows that the methods of process tracing and Bayesian updating facilitate a dialogue between theory and evidence that allows us to assess our degree of confidence in ‘contribution claims’ in a transparent and replicable way.

Full article from CECAN's Barbara Befani

Global Challenges Require Cross-Cutting Solutions

Complexity in Policy Evaluation

New research led by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research suggests that current UK policies on water, energy and food are too fragmented to effectively tackle global challenges. Issues such as climate change, resource constraints and the increasing population cut across several sectors and need similarly cross-sectoral policies. Future research must meet this challenge by focusing on the nexus between sectors, scales and timeframes.

To ensure resilience to complex global challenges, it is necessary to evaluate whether policies and underlying research are working effectively across a range of sectors. It is also important to analyse how existing policies affect the water-energy-food nexus at different scales (local, national, global) and times (short- and long-term). Our new research does exactly that, exploring how the policies could better function across the water, energy and food-related sectors of the economy.

Tools, Tools Everywhere and not a Hammer in Sight!

Complexity in Policy Evaluation

By Pete Barbrook-Johnson (né Johnson)

Members of the Sociology department, alongside colleagues from across the University of Surrey, have been working on the ERIE project for the past six years. One of the main outputs of the project is the development of a suite of software tools designed to help anyone and everyone make decisions and think strategically. The tools have been designed with government, industry and charity sector activities in mind, but they can be applied to a very wide range of topics, from managing your health and exercise, to understanding how we might better collaborate with colleagues across the University, and even bringing together students to share and build knowledge.

Have a look, get involved…