Jo Ingold and Mark Monaghan at LSE have researched the complex relationship between evidence and policy development. The authors seek to move the conversation about evidence-based policymaking towards a more nuanced understand that sees policy development “as fluid, dynamic and continually re-constituting, rather than a linear or rational ‘transfer’ process”.
What emerges from their research is an Evidence Translation Model that provides a structure for this fluidity to move:
- nature of the policy problem in wider context
- agenda-setting – where evidence is sought and what evidence is used
- filtration processes shaping how evidence is used
- policy apparatus for design and implementation
- role of evidence translators (individuals, organisations, networks).
Rooting their model in the language of translation is interesting. Translation moves. Translation acknowledges differences and distances. Translation carries across differences not to homogenise but to realise meaning as constellation. Translation travels. It takes you places and (re)makes those places different. Translation facilitates relationships across distances – whether temporal or spatial or imaginary.
In a paper we wrote as part of the programme of Fair Access Research, we sketched a relationship between research and institutions’ widening participation policies that was troubling. By this we meant that while research has become increasingly central to policy, it does not always sit politely – it moves, disrupts, agitates. One of the reasons we are exploring how widening participation policy and practice becomes embedded into the organisational learning of higher education is to further understand the processes that exist to embrace, encourage or enclose that movement.
Ingold and Monaghan write that “Central to the evidence translation process is the role, skill, knowledge and will of actors as ‘evidence translators’. We argue that agency is crucial at every stage of the recursive evidence translation process”.
Within the national context of widening participation we are already seeing this move towards greater agency for all those working across different spaces of widening participation practice, policy and research. OFFA are working in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Newcastle, Australia to:
- enhance the relationship between widening participation practitioners and academics
- raise the profile of robust evaluation of widening participation activity nationally and internationally
- support widening participation practitioners to present evaluations of their practice in refereed academic journals, enabling practitioners and academics to share their work with broader audiences.
Conceptualising the relationship between research and policy in this ways offers a potentially more reflective, responsive and response-able approach to how we do the things we do.
For more information about t Fair Access Research programme as a whole, please email Dr Clive Hunt (email@example.com) and Dr Vanessa Heaslip (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks very much for your interest in our research. Just to say that we were both at the University of Leeds when we undertook the research. I’m still at Leeds and Mark is now at Loughborough. The LSE link is that they kindly published a blog about our research!