The Use of Evidence in Policy Development and Implementation: Constraints and Strategies


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A talk given by Dr. Stella Mascarenhas-Keyes of the Research Impact Unit, Department for Education, at the Leeds Social Sciences Institute Seminar "The Use of Evidence in Policy Making?" on 22 Oct 2010 at the University of Leeds.

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The Use of Evidence in Policy Development and Implementation: Constraints and Strategies

  1. 1. The Use of Evidence in Policy Making?
  2. 2. 2 The Use of Evidence in Policy Development and Implementation: Constraints and Strategies  Dr. Stella Mascarenhas-Keyes  Research Impact Unit, Department for Education  Email: Presentation to Leeds University: The Use of Evidence in Policy Making 22 October 2010
  3. 3. 3 STRUCTURE OF PRESENTATION  The Policy Process in DfE  Research Impact: Practical Constraints  Research Impact: Measurement Constraints  Case Study: International Knowledge-based Entrepreneurship  Conclusion: What University Researchers can do to Increase Impact
  4. 4. 4 The Policy Process in DfE
  5. 5. 5 DfE Policy Making Model
  6. 6. 6 Good policy requires three things Political objective Delivery reality Evidence base
  8. 8. 8 Research Impact: Practical Constraints within Government  Timeliness of the evidence  Project managers spend relatively less time on impact activities  Limited spend in research budget on impact activities  Limited identification of potential users  Limited proactive engagement with potential users  Limited use of a range of dissemination media  Limited absorptive capacity of policy makers and other users of research  But attempts being made to reduce constraints and get more value for money
  9. 9. 9 Research Impact: Measurement Constraints  Difficult to measure impact as take up of evidence is variable  Can have instrumental and easily recognisable direct impact  Can have non-linear impact, dependent on interactions, nature of research and findings, and social and political contexts  Can have impact on theoretical approaches and concepts, ways of thinking, attitudes etc. – process impacts less tangible, less visible and difficult to measure  Impact can occur over a varying timescale  Examples of impact at February 2010 Conference on The Use of Evidence in Policy Development and Delivery
  11. 11. 11 Case Study: Research on International Knowledge Based Entrepreneurship  ESRC Knowledge Placement Fellow 2007  Seconded to De Montfort University  50% funding from ESRC  25% funding from DIUS  25% funding from DBERR  Office in government and university  Empirical research in UK and China
  12. 12. 12 Strategy 1: Laid Foundations for Research Impact  Got Government management on board  Got multiple policy colleagues on board  Used strategic approach to steering group membership  Identified suitable academic collaborators  Produced high quality peer reviewed policy focused report cations/d/dius_rr_08_20.pdf
  13. 13. 13 Strategy 2: Leveraged Research and Policy Links within Central Government  Used access to published and internal policy documents  Used access to diverse policy colleagues/analysts  Used access to Special Advisers/Ministers – Become aware of political context of evidence use  Used knowledge of changing policy priorities  Used formal and informal opportunities for continuous Knowledge Transfer
  14. 14. 14 Strategy 3: Maintained Links with the Academic Community  Kept abreast with theoretical and methodological developments  Made greater use of researchers’ tacit knowledge  Found opportunities to enhance policy focus of academic research  Increased awareness of external research to take to government  Participated in national and international conferences to ‘take government to the people’
  15. 15. 15 Strategy 4: Worked with External Stakeholders and the Frontline  Made presentations to multiple stakeholders – regional and local government – University management – British Bankers Association – Broad based practitioner conference  Used informal opportunities to drip feed evidence
  16. 16. 16 Indicators of impact  Minister’s positive response to research recommendations  Number of downloads of report and requests for report  Take up of evidence in policy documents e.g. 2008 Enterprise White Paper, DIUS review of HE student and graduate entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship Task Force submission to minister  Change in regional policy on working with universities  Change in one bank’s policy which improved access to finance  Raised awareness of ESRC scheme: citation in Government magazine, ESRC publications, Council for Science & Technology Report, presentations at Science & Innovation conference and follow ups
  17. 17. 17 Conclusion: What University Researchers can do to Increase Impact  Understand the culture of government: breadth not depth  Cultivate and leverage government research and policy links  Cultivate a policy perspective: read policy focused research reports  Engage in capacity building: use government research reports in your curricula  Cultivate an awareness of the types of evidence in demand  Embed impact in the design of research proposals  Write up your research to engage a policy audience  Develop resilience: it can take a while before your research is used… although you may not know it!