An online tool aimed at helping researchers demonstrate their work’s impact to policymakers has been launched by the Campaign for Social Science in collaboration with Cardiff University. While the new toolkit’s initial focus is on the Welsh government and National Assembly for Wales – for example, use of the Welsh language and differing policy definitions are addressed — Pathways to impact: a practical guide for researchers is seen as a possible template for increasing political clout in any devolved government.
Pathways provides guidance to link social science evidence more closely to the policy making process. It is the culmination of nearly a year of research, including practical advice from interviews with both Welsh policymakers and experienced researchers.
Knowing the terrain is everything, as the toolkit repeatedly makes clear. For example, in the section on knowing the obstacles, the toolkit notes, “Paul Cairney points out that ‘even if the “evidence” exists, it doesn’t tell you what to do’ – a simple fact that can frustrate policymakers and researchers alike.”
A series of straightforward recommendations outlines how to make sure research stands out and is most effectively put into action by civil servants, parliamentarians, and Ministers. There are four broad themes: understanding the political context and landscape; engagement and maximizing impact; credibility and independence/overcoming obstacles.
“If we are to take on any of the challenges we’re facing in Wales and across the UK, from productivity and an ageing population, to pressures on the NHS and climate change, we need a rigorous evidence-base at the heart of policymaking,” said Ashley Thomas Lenihan, a senior policy adviser at the campaign and author of the toolkit. “Social science insight and expertise plays a central role in facilitating that and addressing many of these issues.
“There is often a mismatch between the supply of research and its demand among policymakers. This means there’s a risk we’re answering complicated questions without the best evidence available, with potentially wide-ranging consequences”.
The project is the latest in the Campaign’s work to promote the role of social science expertise in policymaking, including its most recent report The Health of People, looking at how social science can improve public health.
The tool-kit launched on October 19 in Cardiff before an audience of Welsh government and Assembly members, civil servants, researchers and academics.