Bringing evidence to bear on policy
Happy 2019. We’re beginning with a report from Evidence in Practice, a project from the Yale School of Management. The report focuses on how to integrate rigorously researched evidence with policy and practice, with an emphasis on international development. The needs numerous stakeholders involved in research and policymaking are enumerated, along with their own needs and priorities: funders, researchers, intermediaries, policymakers, and implementers each receive consideration. One of the strengths of the report is its quotations from dozens of interviews across these groups, which give a sense of the messy, at times frustrating, always collaborative business of effecting change in the world. As to the question of what works:
"The most successful examples of evidence integration lessen the distinction between evidence generation and application, and focus on designing approaches that simultaneously generate (different types of) rigorous evidence and develop an iterative process for integrating evidence into practice. These projects turn the need to negotiate evidence generation and integration into an asset rather than a roadblock. In that sense, the best examples of evidence integration resulted from programs with robust, explicit learning and evidence sharing agendas. This commitment to learning opens the door for different types of linkages and information flows across stakeholders to share experiences, perspectives, and insights with the explicit (and non-threatening) goal of learning."
Another key point is that academic researchers and implementers have different definitions of evidence: Academics have a "tendency to think of evidence as abstract, 'universal' knowledge, while implementers have learned that knowledge is always and necessarily enacted and situated in practice, where few universal principles seem to hold across multiple complex contexts."
Full report, by Rodrigo Canales et al, here.
In October, Ruth Mayne, Duncan Green, Irene Guijt, Martin Walsh, Richard English & Paul Cairney published a paper detailing Oxfam's experience with promoting research-uptake in the policy sphere: "Academic studies of the politics of evidence-based policymaking suggest that policymaking can never be 'evidence based' (Cairney, 2016). At best, it is evidence-informed." Link.
At the World Bank’s Development Impact Blog, David Evans summarized the Oxfam paper into eight key points, including: "Great research is informed by engaging with people outside of our academic circles. We learn from people and policymakers (and people in other disciplines) what big new/unsolved problems are out there, and how institutions (formal and informal) really work." Link. ht Tim Ogden