My first ever non-science paper was published this week (and if you think it is boring, you should see the stuff I used to publish when I was an immunologist!). The paper was born out of discussions between myself and Catherine Fisher from IDS about the ‘demand-side’ of evidence-informed policy making. We later managed to rope in the wonderful Louise Shaxson from ODI as a co-author as well.
I do think the topic is important. I feel that the discourse on use of evidence in policy making has been dominated for too long by issues of supply (i.e. how to push more information out) with not enough attention given to demand (i.e. how the information is accessed and used).
In the paper we try to set out what determines demand for research evidence. We suggest that it encompasses both capacity (which we define very broadly) and motivation. In other words, in order to use research evidence people (and the orgnaisations in which they work) need to be able to do so and they need to be motivated to do so. Simple really! We also outline some of the things that we think sometimes get confused with demand (policy influencing, commisioning research and.. more supply!) and some ideas for how capacity for evidence-informed policy could be built.
Overall I loved writing this paper. It gave me an excuse to have long in-depth discussions with the two co-authors who are two of the smartest people I know in this field. Louise has a ton of hands-on experience working with policy making institutions so she brings a really practical dimension to discussions while Catherine is remarkably good at picking up on inconsistencies in people’s thinking (even when they are trying to pretend that they are not there!). We actually all agreed on most of the central issues in the paper but we kept returning to discussions about whether supporting capacity building for evidence-informed policy was an imposition of a belief structure and if so, what we felt about this.
Anyway, I would love to hear people’s comments on the paper. It is published in the IDS bulletin and can be found on the Evidence-Based Policy in Development network which you can join for free here (or else email me for a copy).