‘Evidence-based policymaking.’ A buzz-term we are all familiar with (and one that will make this blog shoot up the search engine results…). But is it a reality for longitudinal research?
The great divide: academia and politics
The late Cormac McCarthy, author of novels including No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian, could often be found at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. He used his time there to advise leading scientists on how to make their works more digestible for potential readers. If this is how one of America’s greatest authors spent his golden years, it should tell us two things. First, getting research across to a wider audience is important. Second, researchers can benefit from guidance on how to do this.
These are the reasons why CLOSER is today launching a new bespoke Policy Hub. McCarthy had lots of virtues the CLOSER Policy and Dialogue Team can’t match. However, we have built up a bank of knowledge on how to get longitudinal research into policymaking conversations. Our Policy Hub aims to share that knowledge with researchers in our community and beyond, so research findings can drive real change.
The value of engaging
It goes without saying that policymakers should listen to researchers. Doing so leads to better informed strategies and execution, and eventually benefits for the public and their interests. But politics is imperfect. Politicians, especially those at the higher levels of government, have information and requests coming to them from all angles, at all times. Whether this is in the form of constituency inquiries, big business lobbying campaigns, or orders from their political party, it all makes it difficult for researchers to cut through the noise.
But it is possible, and crucially, policymakers want to hear from you. Yes, there are some career politicians whose personal circumstances will drive their policymaking. However, there is now a concerted effort to bring research and policymaking closer together. For example, Areas of Research Interest were introduced in 2017 as a government initiative to seek academic expertise on the main research questions facing government departments. They have since expanded to the UK and devolved parliaments, with ongoing projects to utilise them at even more local levels.
Bespoke resources for policy engagement
Identifying an audience
UK politics is complex and there is an overwhelming breadth of opportunities for engagement, some of which are more suited to longitudinal research than others. The Policy Hub aims to help researchers pick out the most fruitful avenues to spend their time engaging with.
Identifying a target audience for your research findings is best done with a basic understanding of UK policymaking systems. The Hub has a guide to the policymaking process, explaining the roles of UK Parliament and government and how they function in practice. From there, we show how the ways these bodies seek evidence tie into the wider policymaking landscape to help researchers develop an understanding of when and who to engage.
The Policy Hub has been designed for everyone, regardless of prior knowledge. Even if you’d struggle when asked to name the Prime Minister or Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, the Hub will support you from the ground up.
With that in mind, the Hub also contains sections with suggested engagement opportunities that we feel would benefit most from longitudinal research, to save time-pressed researchers from sifting through all the government and parliamentary calls for evidence.
How to engage in practice
The idea of feeding your expertise into policymaking discussions is an appealing one, but getting the rubber to meet the road is a different story. The Policy Hub details the realities of getting in contact with policymakers, down to the formalities of addressing letters to parliamentarians and where to find their contact information. We also outline the spaces in which you can cultivate relationships with policymakers, building your reputation as a trusted and reliable source of information.
Help us help you
Please have a look around the Policy Hub, explore the resources, and let us know what you think! We already have ideas on how to build this platform further, but I’m conscious of how snow blind I could be from months of planning, drafting and editing. So do let me know how we can improve the Hub and what would be most valuable to you at firstname.lastname@example.org