Can we make sense of the relationship between research and policy? How can policy makers and researchers make better use of research to contribute to more evidence-based policies that reduce poverty, alleviate suffering and save lives? This paper written on behalf of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) explores the relationship between research and policy. In the context of policy, research has often been ignored, inaccurate or neglected the concerns of poor and marginalised people.
Research could have greater impact upon policy than it has had to date. Policy makers could make more extensive use of research and researchers could communicate their findings more effectively:
- Research may be ignored for a number of reasons. These range from ineffective communication, to the ignorance/anti-intellectualism of politicians.
- Understanding of the relationship between policy and research needs to be deepened if evidence-based policy making that responds to the demands of poor people is to be promoted.
- There are various models of policy making. Linear models have now been replaced by incremental and latterly ‘enlightenment’ methods.
- Contextual analysis and credibility are important dimensions when looking at the impact research has upon policy.
- In terms of context, both policy makers and researchers are influenced by political, social and economic structures, but more importantly the assumptions that underlie them.
- In terms of credibility, in aiming for more pro-poor evidence based policy, local involvement and effective dissemination are fundamental.
It seems that researchers should have more influence on policy makers, and policy makers could make better use of research:
- Both research and policy have the obligation to establish chains of legitimacy with their informants.
- Research is more likely to contribute to evidence-based policy making if it fits within the political and institutional limits of policy makers and resonates with their ideological assumptions.
- This is also true if outputs are based on credible evidence, and are communicated via the most important communicators.