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Government Social Research Unit. HOW CAN RESEARCH CONTRIBUTE TO POLICY? SRA, IRELAND 13 JANUARY 2006 Sue Duncan Chief Government Social Researcher Cabinet Office. www.gsr.gov.uk. The Policy Iceberg. Public. Commissioned research and evaluation. Implementation Legislation

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Government social research unit

Government Social Research Unit

HOW CAN RESEARCH CONTRIBUTE TO POLICY?

SRA, IRELAND

13 JANUARY 2006

Sue Duncan

Chief Government Social Researcher

Cabinet Office

www.gsr.gov.uk


Government social research unit

The Policy Iceberg

Public

Commissioned research and evaluation

Implementation

Legislation

Policy Announcement

Sea level

Policy Idea

Political research

(opinion polling etc)

Political

Party Politics

Manifesto commitments

Elections

No 10 priorities

Cabinet/Ministerial

Public Opinion

Political careers

Costing options

Reviews of evidence

Analysis of admin data

Budgets/Resources

Priorities

Legal powers

Operational issues

Parliamentary timetables

Human nature

Practical


The black box of policy research

The Black Box of Policy Research

Long, boring report

Inconclusive results

Irrelevant results

Results too late

Research expensive

Political embarrassment

‘Wrong answer’

Research Activity

?

Policy Question

OR

Research findings

OR

Regular feedback of results

Policy question answered

Research on time

No last minute surprises

Research useful and used


Inside the black box

Inside the Black Box

  • Clarify research question

  • Check existing knowledge/re-analyse data

  • Check budget/procurement rules

  • Design research

  • Commission research

  • Field work

  • Data processing

  • Data analysis

  • Report writing

  • Research-based advice

  • Publication

  • Clarify research question

  • Check existing knowledge/re-analyse data

  • Check budget/procurement rules

  • Design research

  • Commission research

  • Field work

  • Data processing

  • Data analysis

  • Report writing

  • Research-based advice

  • Publication

Policy Question


The policy research relationship

The Policy Research Relationship

  • Last minute research involvement

  • Unclear information requirements

  • Changing needs

  • Poor communication (mistrust)

  • Junior level discussion

  • Inflexible research

  • No ownership

  • Too busy

BAD RESULT

UNSATISFIED CUSTOMER

  • Early research involvement

  • Ongoing dialogue

  • Senior level discussion

  • Research flexibility

  • Policy ownership

GOOD RESULT

SATISFIED CUSTOMER


Government social research unit

The Policy Iceberg

Public

Commissioned research and evaluation

Implementation

Legislation

Policy Announcement

Sea level

Policy Idea

Political research

(opinion polling etc)

Political

Party Politics

Manifesto commitments

Elections

No 10 priorities

Cabinet/Ministerial

Public Opinion

Political careers

Costing options

Reviews of evidence

Analysis of admin data

Budgets/Resources

Priorities

Legal powers

Operational issues

Parliamentary timetables

Human nature

Practical


Key uses

Understanding client groups

Understanding problems/issues

Monitoring progress

Evaluating policy impacts

Evaluating delivery

Testing policy/delivery

Key Uses


Current priorities

Inclusive policy making

Performance measurement and delivery

Joined up government

Strategic thinking

‘What works is what counts’

Current Priorities


Government social research unit

InstrumentalConceptual

Leads directly to decisionLeads to changes in knowledge,

making for policy and practiceunderstanding or attitude

MobilisationWider Influence

Used as instrument of persuasionLeads to larger scale shifts in

to legitimise action/in actionthinking

(Nutley et al 2002)


Government social research unit

… Government should regard policy making as a continuous, learning process, not as a series of one-off initiatives. We will improve our use of evidence and research so that we understand better the problems we are trying to address …

(Modernising Government White Paper 1999)


Government social research unit

… Good quality policy making depends on high quality information derived from a number of sources - expert knowledge; existing domestic and international research; existing statistics; stakeholder consultation; evaluation of previous policies, new research …

(‘Professional Policy Making in the 21st Century’)


Government social research unit

… there is nothing a government hates more than to be well informed; for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult …

(J M Keynes)

www.gsr.gov.uk


What is evidence

Research

Experience

Judgement

Resources

Values

Public Opinion

What is evidence?


Government social research unit

… Social science should be at the heart of policy making. We need a revolution in relation between government and the social research community - we need social scientists to help determine what works and why, and what type of policy initiatives are likely to be most effective …

(David Blunkett 2000)

www.gsr.gov.uk


Government social research unit

… I had hoped to find research to support or to conclusively oppose my belief that quality integrated education is the most promising approach. But I have found very little conclusive evidence. For every study, statistical or theoretical, that contains a proposed solution or recommendation, there is always another, equally well documented, challenging the assumption or conclusions of the first. No one seems to agree with anyone else’s approach. But more distressing no one seems to know what works. As a result I must confess, I stand with my colleagues confused and often disheartened...

(Senator Walter Mondale, 1970)

www.gsr.gov.uk


Government social research unit

… There are significant problems with the exploitation of social science research in government, local government, commerce, the voluntary sector and the media. These come about because of ‘interface management’ and communication problems, though the caution of some academics towards close engagement with practitioners is a source of great disappointment to many users of social science research …

(‘Great expectations: the social sciences in Britain’ March 2003)

www.gsr.gov.uk


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