Research into policy

 

­­­­­­­This section of the site is being redeveloped and is under construction. The main focus of the 'Research into Policy' collection of documents will be on;

  • evidence based policy making
  • research and science communication
  • research uptake and utilisation.

­­­­­­­­Submissions on these focus areas can be submitted online by subscribers or to imagaya@hsrc.ac.za.

 


Related publications

Policy brief exploring how different types of knowledge feed into policymaking processes — based on case-studies in three South-East Asian countries — and suggests that classifying knowledge can be a useful way of promoting evidence-based decisions. Classifying knowledge can help researchers, and others who produce evidence, to better communicate what they know, says the brief. And it can help those who use knowledge appreciate the value of basing their decisions on a range of sources.

This guide is aimed at decision makers across various institutions in United Kingdom social policy and practice. It intends to foster intelligent demand for research evidence from a wider audience, whilst not being aimed at trained evaluators and researchers.

 

A social audit is a community-led process of reviewing of crucial documents to determine whether the public expenditure and service delivery outcomes reported by the government really reflect the public money spent and the services received by the community. Members of the community collectively participate in a process of verifying government (or private company) documents by comparing them with the realities on the ground and the experiences of the community. Evidence collected during the audit is then reported to the responsible authorities at a public hearing. A social audit provides a way to build effective and meaningful public participation in poor and working class communities by providing a means for the community to engage with the governance processes that affect their lives. The guide can be downloaded above.

The primary audience for this book is researchers in systems and policy research, seeking to strengthen their capacity at the individual and at the organizational level, from particular research projects to larger issues of organizational development. This book emphasizes that successful publication on the part of researchers is not 'job finished.' It is 'job started.' It then sets out what more must be done—and how—to drive the research findings to wherever they need to be to provide real and maximum benefit to policy, to practice, to people.

This guide is a short introduction for decision-makers and researchers or anyone else considering whether a systematic review may be appropriate to fill a gap in knowledge or to use as a resource. It aims to help anybody planning or commissioning a review of what research is already out there. It would be of value to  analysts, evaluators, policymakers or commissioners.  The guide is aimed at anybody from central government, local authorities, public service providers, regulatory and advisory bodies, charities or the consultancy sector.

This book is a guide to planning and conducting a particular type of literature review, one that is increasingly used as a scientific tool: the systematic literature review. The book is aimed at social science researchers, but it provides a more general discussion of systematic reviews for those who want to use and understand them, but don’t necessarily want to do one themselves.

Most of the recent interest in systematic reviews focuses on reviews of the effectiveness of interventions, reflected in the growth of initiatives like the Campbell and Cochrane Collaborations. This book therefore focuses on reviews of effectiveness, but not exclusively. Systematic reviews are also widely used to synthesize other sorts of evidence, for example in order to answer questions about etiology (causes of problems), or about people’s experiences, and we discuss and present examples of such.

This toolkit provides broad tips and practical suggestions for communicating academic research using the internet. It draws on best practice for web strategies from the information and commercial worlds, especially selected to help the successful electronic dissemination of your research.

An easy-to-read guide which identifies the most important stages in the development of a communication strategy. It is divided into three parts – Concept, Policy Briefs and Practical Means – and is intended to help exploit research concepts into genuine policy action.

Explores six key areas of the knowledge–development policy interface, aiming to stimulate nuanced debates and the development of tools for knowledge translation for actors involved in knowledge translation processes – including knowledge generators, brokers or users.

Brings together four years work on evidence-based policymaking and knowledge brokering in Defra. An excellent literature review is also available.

Bridging the know-do gap

This book from the Australian National University focuses on three groups—policymakers, service providers and researchers—to examine how to enhance their ability to work together. The particular emphasis is on how to improve the uptake of sound research evidence into government policy and into service provision. How can research knowledge be brokered to achieve effective decision making and action that improve children’s wellbeing? The aim is to provide examples of different ways this can be achieved, as well as laying foundations for further development of knowledge-brokering initiatives.

This paper presents the findings of a year-long research project,‘The Politics of Research Uptake, which contributes to the evolving discussion regarding the relationship between research and policy by considering the role of research-based evidence in African policy debates. The notion of a ‘policy debate’ in developed countries is directly associated with debates over evidence and its role in advancing political purposes, as a number of recent examples demonstrate. Applying this consideration to the African context, this paper takes a wider view of the policy process — in which policy debates are understood to be an integral part of policymaking — by examining the role of research-based evidence in four case studies on diverse policy debates in sub-Saharan Africa.

A selection of case studies on strategies adopted for getting research into policy, including communication and advocacy strategies, and final outcomes.

Series of case studies which seek to trace the history of each public action in order to identify and characterise the role played by knowledge. Involves tracing the genealogy of the public action, paying attention to how policy learning and knowledge are involved throughout the process (Know & Pol).

This concept note from the Parliament of Kenya proposes the formation of the Parliamentary Caucus on Evidence-Informed Oversight and Decision-making, an informal network whose membership will comprise of members of both the National Assembly and the Senate who are committed to promoting responsible governance through evidence-informed oversight. The Caucus is unique in terms of its goal and expected deliverables as it aims to provide a structured platform to enable parliamentarians share experiences and work together to promote an evidence-informed culture in their work.

This discussion paper introduces and discusses a project, The Science of Using Science which reviewed literature on effective strategies to increase the use of research evidence. It provides over 30 examples and case studies of successful efforts to increase research uptake. It involved two phases, firstly a systematic review of systematic reviews and secondly, a scoping review of other social science interventions that might be relevant to the first study.

This working paper describes how the Government of South Africa engaged with evidence-based policy making through a case study of the process of conducting the 20-Year Review of South Africa 1994-2014. The Review was undertaken by the South African government to reflect on how the country has progressed since the dawn of democracy in 1994, the challenges it still faces and how these can be addressed. The Working Paper looks at the process of the Review to explore experiences that may be of interest for other middle income countries contexts on how evidence was acquired, analyzed, and used from within a policy space; what capabilities are required within government organizations to use evidence at individual, organizational and institutional levels; and the institutional context necessary to embed and support evidence practice and an evidence seeking culture in government departments.

 

In 2009, the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) embarked on a nine-month strategy to improve the way it sourced, handled and used evidence to make policy. It had seen how another government department, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra ), had developed a strategic approach to managing its evidence base and decided to run a similar process to develop its own Science & Evidence Strategy (S&ES). This case study outlines what happened over the nine months. It contains lessons for others who are helping small government departments or individual policy teams think about their evidence needs in a strategic and systematic way.

Link: Publication

Evidence-based research is widely recognized as an essential input in effective economic policymaking. However, for the results of their research to influence policy, the research community must overcome a variety of challenges, including the absence of adequate and relevant data, differences of research results on the same policy issue, and deficiencies in effectively communicating policy conclusions to the policymakers. This paper stresses the need for increased investment in the generation of adequate and relevant data, and the responsibility of the researchers to seek to reach a consensus or narrow the range of and explain the reasons for their differences, thus enabling the policymakers to exercise their judgment.

PAN:Children is hosting a Colloquium on lone mothers, social security and dignity in South Africa on 6 June 2014 at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in Pretoria. The purpose of this colloquium is to share results from DFID/ESRC -funded project that is nearing completion and to discuss with the attendees the emerging findings and policy implications. The project entitled ' Lone mothers in South Africa- The role of social security in respecting and protecting dignity' was led by Professor Noble at the University of Oxford and involved collaborations with colleagues at the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of the Western Cape. This event is for stakeholders in government and civil society.

The reasons given for writing this paper are:

  • To better reflect on what has worked and what has not in terms of the key activities of the programme: research production, capacity development and networking and partnerships.
  • To produce valuable evidence that can guide strategic design of future work by the diverse partners of the programme.
  • To share this knowledge with organisations/persons working in this field.

Highlights that the most valuable lessons contained in these pages have derived from interaction with others. This paper is a product of continuous collective thinking: it is not what we have learned just by ourselves but what we have reflected upon, digested, discussed and discovered by talking with other colleagues and experts, asking for their feedback, encouraging them to question and challenge us, asking about what could be different or improved in the future.

Summaries as a communication tool

This review examines examples of summary production processes from a number of contexts and organisations, including: the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC ), Eldis, US Department of Agriculture, World Health Organisation and Inside Knowledge Magazine, as well as KM4Dev (summaries of list discussions), Outcome Mapping Learning Community (OMLC) , among others.

At the request of the New Zealand Prime Minister, this report has been designed to explore in greater detail the issues that were brought to light in an earlier discussion paper, Towards better use of evidence in policy formation (2011)  This paper extends that discussion and makes some specific suggestions as to how to improve the use of robust evidence in policy formation and evaluation.The report is partially informed by a survey that the Science Advisory Committee undertook in 2012 to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices of public servants toward the use of research-informed evidence in policy formation. A number of government agencies were selected to take part in the study, which comprised staff surveys, key informant interviews and document analysis.

This monograph aims to exposes the deficiencies of this ‘evidence- based’ approach to public policy. Four policy areas are examined: minimum alcohol pricing, passive smoking, global warming and happiness. In each case, the use of scientific evidence is shown to be deeply flawed.

The author, philosopher Jamie Whyte, identifies numerous fundamental problems with the ‘evidence-based’ policymaking process, ranging from basic errors to more complex methodological issues.

Refers to the self-interested behaviour of scientists who stand to improve their reputations and finances if governments engage their services in policy development. Experts may also have strong personal preferences for particular policies and indeed strong views on how they think other people should live.

Concludes that  'evidence-based’ policymaking thus provides a mechanism for academic elites to impose their own values on society as a whole.

Draft report  on how policy actors engage with information systems, and where knowledge intermediaries could best add value This is a draft report to share some interim findings from the study. This report is for general circulation on the understanding that it is a work in progress. The research was part of the Mobilising Knowledge for Development programme funded by DFID (UK). The programme is based at IDS and works with a range of partners and collaborators to strengthen the knowledge intermediary sector.

A multi-armed randomised control design was used to find answers to three research questions: do policy briefs influence readers? does the presence of an op-ed type commentary within the brief lead to more or less influence? does it matter if the commentary is assigned to a well known name in the field?

Findings include that a policy brief is more effective in creating ‘evidence-accurate’ beliefs amongst those with no prior opinion, that messengers matter when it comes to readers’ intended actions and that gender and self-perceived levels of influence affect people’s intention to act after reading the policy brief.

Recommends that policy briefs have clear key messages including opinion and authority features as they may help to ensure briefs are shared and passed on, consider whether a policy brief’s design or format is less appealing to women and/or makes them less inclined to take action and that the ‘movers and shakers’are targeted.

This paper reviews the extent to which it is possible to reach a workable consensus on ways of identifying and labelling evidence. It does this by exploring the efforts made to date and the debates that have ensued. Throughout, the focus is on evidence that is underpinned by research, rather than other sources of evidence such as expert opinion or stakeholder view.

The guide discusses the way scientists use uncertainty to express how confident they are about results. Also argues that uncertainty can be abused to undermine evidence or to suggest anything could be true: from alternative cancer treatments to anthropogenic CO2 not changing the atmosphere. Looks at why uncertainty is not a barrier to taking action – decision makers usually look for a higher level of certainty for an operational decision (such as introducing body scanners in airports) than for a decision based on broader ideology or politics (such as reducing crime rates).

This brief outlines some of the different approaches taken by foreign and international institutions seeking to advance evidence-based policy (EBP), and to identify innovations and best practices emerging from their design that might translate well to the UK context and the realm of social policy.

Section 27 of the Constitution of South Africa guarantees the right to access healthcare services; this right places a legal obligation on the government to ensure that access to health is not hampered and to create conditions in which there is progressive realisation of the right to access healthcare services. The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Section27 gathered information from February 2012 to December 2012 and compiled a report showing how healthcare in Gauteng has declined. The report highlighted shortages in medication and staff, infrastructure collapsing, and misuse of funds; this resulted in access to health in Gauteng being compromised.

This paper explores some of the assumptions underlying ‘evidence based’ approaches to poverty reduction impact assessment. It argues that the discourse of Evidence-Based Policy (EBP) offers poor guidance to those who seek to ensure that social policy making is informed by the findings of social science. EBP discourse relies on a technocratic, linear understanding of the policy making process and on a naïve empiricist understanding of the role of evidence. This renders it unable to engage with the role of the underlying discursive frameworks and paradigms that render evidence meaningful and invest it with consequence: EBP discourse does not help us understand either how policy changes, or what is at stake in dialogue across the ‘research-policy divide’. Rather than simply focusing on evidence, approaches to policy change need to focus on how evidence is used in the politically loaded and ideologically compelling ‘policy narratives’ that contest rival policy frameworks. The paper considers an example from the South African context – the shift to the ‘two economies’ framework and the policy interventions associated with ASGISA – and explores the implications for approaches to research more attuned to the realities of the policymaking process. It concludes with a discussion of the implications for social researchers and policy makers.

See responses to this article on the On Think Tanks blog 

Public policy plays a key role in improving population health and in the control of diseases, including non-communicable diseases. However, an evidence-based approach to formulating healthy public policy has been difficult to implement, partly on account of barriers that hinder integrated work between researchers and policy-makers. This paper describes a 'policy effectiveness–feasibility loop' (PEFL) that brings together epidemiological modelling, local situation analysis and option appraisal to foster collaboration between researchers and policy-makers.

Outputs and key project documents from a UK Department for International Development funded study providing an analysis of research dissemination strategies used and factors that aid effective dissemination.

This paper attempts to respond to the following questions: How can we improve communications between researchers and policymakers? What can be done to increase the utilisation of research results? And how can research meet short term needs without compromising its role in the development of new concepts and ideas?

This research report outlines key findings from an evaluation of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and International Network for the Availability of Science Publications's (INASP) communications capacity development support to the International Development Research Centre's Acacia initiative in 2011.

This paper explores strategies for effective policy communication and provides some suggestions on how policy researchers can reach policymakers and the media to enhance the impact of their findings.

Online monograph which examines the extent to which policymakers and political leaders take into account African research when they formulate policies intended to promote sustainable development. It reveals that there is a disconnect between policymaking and economic research and proposes ways that researchers can help to bridge this gap, improve the policy-making process, and thus enhance development efforts in Africa.

Considers how academic research affects labour and social policy. Concludes that academic research can have a modest to substantial impact on policy which is enhanced if it is: high-quality; done by reputable researchers; synthesized and translated into a language understood by policymakers, the general public, and the media; has credible champions who will broker and defend it in the political process or in the public realm; is timely; and, is politically acceptable.

A literature review from the South African Journal of Science addressing factors that influence the uptake of scientific evidence into policymaking and the barriers to using science in policymaking, with recommendations for improved science-policymaking interaction.

Online monograph which analyses a range of factors which determine when research influences policy.

Report on a conducted collaboratively by the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to assess both the extent and context of research evidence use in the formulation of policies at the Ministry of Health in Kenya. A team of eight researchers drawn from both AFIDEP and MoH were involved in the design, data collection, analysis and write-up of the report. The study was conducted as part of the SECURE Health (Strengthening Capacity to Use Research Evidence in Health Policy) programme in Kenya, whose overall objective is to optimise access and use of research evidence in health sector decision-making, planning and programming. Decision-makers in public health policy worldwide recognise and believe that the inclusion of evidence in public policy-making is both a desirable and attainable policy goal. Conducted with the aim of strengthening the use of evidence in policy formulation at the MoH, this baseline policy analysis study examined the status of research use, capacity, barriers and facilitators of research use within the MoH in order to provide an information base against which to measure the progress and effectiveness of the SECURE Health interventions.

INVITATION: On 4 March 2016 the Africa Evidence Network and PAN Children are hosting a roadshow at the Human Sciences Research Council  (HSRC) offices in Cape Town. We have invited researchers, policy makers, parliamentary representatives and civil society. The event centres around the value of networks and building capacity in the use of evidence in decision-making across government. Ample time has been allocated to discussion and joining the networks. Please RSVP vfichardt@hsrc.ac.za (link sends e-mail) or imagaya@hsrc.ac.za (link sends e-mail). Note that the event can also be attended via videoconferencing facilities at the HSRC's Durban and Pretoria offices, with a webstreaming facility to be set up. Final programme to be circulated by 26 February 2016.

On 1 and 2 June 2015 the University of Johannesburg's Building Capacity for Using Research Evidence (BCURE) project hosted a two-day workshop for partners interested in the use of research in decision-making in government. Presentations are attached for your interest.

The NCCHPP's François Benoit offered this presentation for the Public Health Agency of Canada's Centre for Public Health Infrastructure, in Ottawa on January 21, 2015. March 2015. This presentation illustrates how two public policy models, the stages model and the punctuated equilibrium model, can help public health actors to reflect on using data, knowledge and evidence in producing healthy public policies. It addresses the following questions: In general: How can public health actors support the production of healthy public policies?; More specifically: What leads decision makers to use knowledge in their policy formulation; or, in corollary, how do two main explanations of decision makers' evidence use (a linear model or a model that focuses on the cultural gap between decision makers and researchers) orient our conceptions of knowledge sharing?; What influences governments' policy analysts?; How do decision makers' styles open up windows of opportunity allowing policy analysts to then influence those decision makers?; While using public policy models, how can we adjust our knowledge sharing to maximize its use?; and; How does recognizing that the complex system of producing public policies influences our analysis of situations, our knowledge production and our knowledge sharing?

There are clearly big questions here that can't be fully answered in this presentation. Nevertheless, discussing them helps to remind us that, by analyzing the circumstances surrounding the production of public policy, public health actors can develop knowledge-exchange practices that take into account windows of opportunity as they arise. The study of public policy models offers the possibility to contribute to the production of evidence-informed public policies.

 

The seminar reflected on science engagement in South Africa, against the background of the DST’s new Science Engagement Framework. It included reflection on the broader role of science in society, and on the role of the social sciences in science engagement, including the conceptual and empirical challenges that face researchers and policy-makers. Participants also considered the Science Engagement Framework from the national, international, and developing country perspectives. On this basis, the seminar examined prospects for the implementation of the strategy. Using the Square Kilometre Array telescope as a case study  the seminar examined how the different dimensions of the science engagement debate and actors can work together to successfully implement a science engagement strategy.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA)) hosted a Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) Research Seminar on ‘Public engagement for good governance: the role of the humanities’. The seminar took place on 11 March 2015 at the CSIR Conference Centre in Pretoria. Presentations from the workshop and other documentation can be downloaded above.

 

The workshop aims to draw together researchers in universities and science councils with policy makers in the higher education and innovation spaces. The purpose is to debate the role of knowledge producers in different types of universities and science councils in promoting innovation  with marginalised communities. Researchers will present their new work, and all participants will grapple with the policy implications of the emerging evidence.  Request further presentations and documentations by contacting us through the Policy Action Network website.

Early engagement with end-users of research is, increasingly, seen as essential if findings are to be applied after a study concludes.

This example from Pakistan gives insight into the why and how of such an approach. A collaborative study – by a team from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Pakistan National TB Control Programme and the Research Alliance for Advocacy and Development in Pakistan – involved stakeholders from the start of the research.

The study assessed whether patients with pulmonary multi-drug resistant tuberculosis have better treatment outcomes if they are treated using quality-assured, internationally procured (GLC) drugs as compared to locally procured drugs. Early stakeholder engagement and collaboration helped to ensure buy-in and uptake, from policy level (by the National Tuberculosis Programme) to hospital level (staff, clinicians and data managers).

Presentation from HSRC seminar on 14 August 2013 which gives information on PRIME's approach to research uptake. Note the link to the YouTube presentation on slide number 26 where PRIME's research director Prof Vikram Patel makes a compelling case on improving mental healthcare in developing countries.

This symposium aimed to stimulate conversation between researchers, communicators and policy makers. The two-day event saw lively discussion on the nature and role of ‘evidence’, dominant methodologies in social science research, and ways to make ‘sense’ and meaning of data. Through the exchanges of experience and research some fresh, innovative frameworks were brought forward which enable a more critical, realistic approach to the policy making nexus, with a specific focus on the politics of poverty research and pro-poor policy development.

Report of the workshop on Improving the impact of development research through better communication and uptake, which was co‐hosted by AusAID, DFID and UKCDS on November 2011 in London and involved 80 participants.

Various publications and reports from the I-K-Mediary Group including blogs and documentation from a workshop conducted in South Africa on the contribution of research intermediaries to evidence based policy and practice.

The Big Lottery Fund, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Nesta have come together to create The Alliance for Useful Evidence. By championing the need for useful evidence, the Alliance provides a focal point for improving and extending the use of social research and evidence in the UK. It works with other organisations in this field to encourage debate, discussion, collaboration and innovation.

The Alliance is an open access network of individuals from across government, universities, charities, business and local authorities in the UK and internationally. If you are interested in promoting useful evidence in decision making across social policy, whilst gaining access to publications and events, and networking with other members join The Alliance for Useful Evidence. Membership is free, and open to everyone, from interested individuals in charities, academics, local authorities, practitioners, think tanks, government and commercial businesses. To find out more email Alliance.4UsefulEvidence@nesta.org.uk.

For the final issue of the From Evidence to Action for 2013/14 we have created a digest of five Department of Science and Technology DST Human and Social Dynamic Science Seminars and Policy Cluster Workshops held in the course of the 2013/14 financial year. We provide highlights and executive summaries, with links to presentations and useful references. Resources from a further six workshops will be provided in the next issue of From Evidence to Action as the information becomes available.

To provide some background, the Science Seminars are designed to better ensure that research feeds into active policy processes, and to serve as a vehicle for disseminating policy-relevant research results, sharing expertise and experience, facilitating policy dialogue, and building the capacity of researchers and policymakers in ways that bear on public policymaking.  The Government Cluster Policy Workshops are a key initiative of the Human and Social Dynamics in Development Grand Challenge (HSDD GC), which is one of five ‘Grand Challenges’ underpinning the DST’s 10 Year Innovation Plan. The DST contracts the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to implement these workshops, which are similarly designed to better ensure that research feeds into active policy processes, policy-relevant research results are disseminated and that the capacity of researchers and policymakers is developed in ways that bear on public policymaking.

Please note that this is a work in progress and we are busy uploading presentations and related documents from the series. If you would like to access presentations please email vfichardt@hsrc.ac.za

 

In this issue of From Evidence to Action we focus on data curation, data sharing and the importance of data in the research evidence chain, as well as the use of data. The benefits of data archiving are vast, and include that it encourages secondary use of research scientific research and allows researchers to scrutinise research results, and allows for some comparative analysis, as well as providing a historical perspective. Data curation can also lead to new collaborative research networks, and it becomes possible to find out about other researchers working in the same field. Duplication is reduced as it is not necessary to repeat what has already been done, and, importantly, good, clean, well preserved data allows for greater focus on the research questions.

In our feature we profile the HSRC’s Data Curation (DCURE) unit and how it approaches its mandate for sharing data. Our guidelines are from the Royal Society and we shine our Spotlight on (UK organization). We share a policy brief recommended by the HSRC Data Curation team and as always we have collated resources on data curation, including events, opportunities, additional reports and links of interest to the data community.

If you would like to make any comments please email vfichardt@hsrc.ac.za or subscribe to our alerts on the Policy Action Network portal

In this issue of From Evidence to Action we focus on PAN: Children, a knowledge portal launched just over a year ago in a partnership between UNICEF and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Our Feature traces the ideas and inspiration behind the portal, where we are after a year online and our plans to expand PAN: Children’s facilities and reach. As a learning network we have consulted widely with experts and other platforms and our Case Study highlights an expert retreat and exchange we held in May 2013 where we refined our strategic plans and grappled with issues around policy influencing and key institutional arrangements which we need to put in place. We shine our Spotlight On PAN: Children’s topical guides, the rationale behind them and how they can be updated by online users. Under Toolkits and guidelines we have sourced some useful documents on children’s participation, one of the priority areas for PAN: Children. Our Resources Section collates information about events, opportunities and related documents.

In this issue of From Evidence to Action we focus on research synthesis as a tool for supporting evidence informed policymaking, some organisations involved in this kind of work, and how they go about it. Our Feature focuses on systematic reviews and we interview Ruth Stewart who leads the evidence-informed policy team at the Centre for Anthropological Research at the University of Johannesburg as well as contributing to research at the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre) in London. The EPPI-Centre is part of the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education in the University of London. In our Case Study we profile the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre which is based at the University of Birmingham and look at the research synthesis facilities that this successful knowledge intermediary has built up. Our spotlight is on two partnering South African institutions, the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care (CEBHC) at Stellenbosch University and the South African Cochrane Centre and their involvement in systematic reviews in the area of public health. Our Resources Section collates information about related events, opportunities and other useful documents.

In the first issue of From Evidence to Action for 2013/14, we focus on communication for research uptake, which, as we highlight in our Feature article, is not a straightforward subject to get to grips with. For our feature we spoke to Amit Makan, Research Uptake Manager at the PRogramme for Improving Mental health carE (PRIME) about institutional arrangements aimed at enhancing research uptake and successful communication with policymakers. Our case study highlights the research uptake strategies at Strive in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. We shine our Spotlight on a relatively new regional network, the Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (ZEIPNET) where you can join up on their Facebook page and participate in their science cafes and policy dialogues. As always, our resources section collates information on events, training, associations, toolkits and guidelines.

In this issue of From Evidence to Action, we focus on the issue of the politics of policy, highlighted by an international symposium which took place in November 2012, entitled The politics of poverty research and pro-poor policy-making: Learning from the practice of policy dialogue. The event identified and discussed key conceptual and contextual issues around the politics of poverty research and pro-poor policy-making, with a particular focus on evidence-based policy-making (EBPM). Our case study on the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) demonstrates a concrete example of how this has been put into practice, while our Spotlight on looks at another programme, DRUSSA (Development Research Uptake in Southern Africa), which also aims to improve researchers’ capacity to manage the uptake of research by their key stakeholders. We examine a general approach for participatory policy-making and finally, we provide our usual variety of useful resources, including reports, web links, training opportunities and events.

In this first issue of From Evidence to Action for 2012, we look at networks and, specifically, the role they play in changing policy. Our feature article, Getting the most out of policy networks, examines what a network actually is and what makes them effective. Through the example of the Regional Network on Equity in Health in Southern Africa, EQUINET, our case study further explores how to build networks and how they can be used to influence policy. We also find out more about the Policy Action Network, how to manage a Community of Practice. 

The gap between research and practice or policy is often described as a problem. To identify new barriers to, and facilitators of, the use of evidence by policy makers, and assess the state of research in this area, Bio Med Central recently updated a systematic review. They searched online databases including Medline, Embase, SocSci Abstracts, CDS, DARE, Psychlit, Cochrane Library, NHSEED, HTA, PAIS, IBSS (Search dates: July 2000-September 2012). Studies were included if they were primary research or systematic reviews about factors affecting the use of evidence in policy. Studies were coded to extract data on methods, topic, focus, results and population.

Extensive literature review on knowledge utilisation from Development Research Uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa (DRUSSA). Issues addressed in five key essays: Shifts in science policy and the new university paradigm, Research tradtions of knowledge utilisation and its most influential models, Research to policy, Stakeholder engagement and porticipation, and, Science Communication.

This Topic Guide covers a number of topic and issues identified during a process of discussion and debate among team members and others involved and is part of the research agenda for Politics & Ideas. It is presented in sections and readers are encouraged to review and add views and resources to it. The authors request suggestions for new topics or issues for inclusion in the final version. Personal views can be added to each section and participation is encouraged.

Outputs from ODI RAPID evidence-based policymaking project. Aims to identify lessons and approaches from evidence-based policymaking in the UK which may be valuable for progressive policymakers in developing countries. It responds to a repeated call from partners in the South to understand more about what is happening in the UK regarding evidence-based policy and what can they learn from the UK experience.

Government policy & legislation

This concept note from the Parliament of Kenya proposes the formation of the Parliamentary Caucus on Evidence-Informed Oversight and Decision-making, an informal network whose membership will comprise of members of both the National Assembly and the Senate who are committed to promoting responsible governance through evidence-informed oversight. The Caucus is unique in terms of its goal and expected deliverables as it aims to provide a structured platform to enable parliamentarians share experiences and work together to promote an evidence-informed culture in their work.