Opening the evidence up to policymakers

A group of UK academics and researchers is planning to launch a UK Evidence Information Service (EIS) for politicians. It is now asking members of the public to volunteer to interview local elected politicians, providing feedback that will help shape the service.

There is a gap between good research evidence and policymaking, and much discussion about how to bridge it. One recent systematic review suggested a lack of timely, clear, relevant and reliable research, and difficulty finding and accessing it are barriers; on the other hand, good relationships between policymakers and researchers help research get used. The review looked at some of the different sources and types of information that policymakers use, although this is tricky as many studies do not define what they mean by evidence. A survey last year of White House officials about what they would like from researchers produced some surprising findings and interesting commentary.

The Evidence Information Service aims to be broad in scope as well as informal, fast and minimally bureaucratic, explain its founders, including Chris Chambers from Cardiff University. It plans to act as a knowledge broker or matchmaker, quickly creating links between politicians or civil servants, and research experts, as the need arises. When a policy is intended to be evidence-based, it should be based on the best evidence available from the humanities as well as the sciences, interpreted in the most unbiased and informed way, they say. This is not an argument for reducing policy-making to number-crunching.

The next step is to test the theory they have come up with after consulting and talking to all sorts of people and organisations including policy experts, politicians, civil servants, scientists and charities and to assess the demand for it from politicians. Which is why they are calling for volunteers to interview their local politicians.



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