Four questions relating to creativity and co-production

Joe Langley, Nicola Kayes, Ian Gwilt, Erna Snelgrove-Clarke, Sarah Smith and Claire Craig

Reflections arising from an Evidence & Policy Special Issue exploring the role and value of Creative Practices in Co-production. This blog post is based on the Editorial to the Special Issue, ‘Exploring the value and role of creative practices in research co-production‘.

Our Evidence & Policy Special Issue, exploring the value and role of creativity and co-production in research, highlights four key questions:

  1. What constitutes research? And who decides?
  2. What constitutes legitimate knowledge?
  3. What constitutes creativity and co-production in research?
  4. To what extent are we constrained in the opportunities to undertake ‘creative’ research?
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Employer involvement in post-Brexit migration policymaking: the case of UK horticulture

Sam Frederick Scott

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘The entanglement of employers and political elites in migration policymaking: the case of Brexit and the revival of UK horticulture’s guestworker scheme’.

The UK has faced considerable labour shortages following the Brexit vote and the Covid-19 pandemic. Horticulture is one sector that has been particularly vulnerable, with fears of crops being left to rot in the fields commonly aired. In a new Evidence and Policy research article I look at the public pressure employers put on government, and indeed were invited to put on government, as post-Brexit migration policy emerged. I conclude that, in the case of horticulture, migration policy was made through the intimate entanglement of employers and political elites and that employers got what they wanted: a new seasonal guest worker visa scheme. This new scheme is unprecedented in its scale (up to 40,000 workers) and as broad as possible in scope (potentially global). However, despite this, concerns still remain over continued harvest labour shortages in 2022 and beyond.

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Knowledge Brokerage: The Musical

Megan Auld, Emmah Doig and Sally Bennett

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Knowledge Brokerage: The Musical: an analogy for explaining the role of knowledge brokers in a university setting’.

It would be an untruth to say that we knew exactly what we were doing when we started our role as knowledge brokers. As experienced clinicians and researchers we’d lived on both sides of the knowledge-action coin, and we’d certainly had a few good tries at making them come together. The literature told us we were ‘capacity builders’, ‘knowledge managers’, ‘boundary spanners’ who required a myriad of personal characteristics to pull this thing off (only some of which, to be honest, I thought I actually possessed). Here began a journey to make the theoretical come to reality and after living and breathing knowledge brokerage in a university setting for a year, we wanted to make sure that the experiences we had would span the boundaries of knowledge for other would-be brokers.

In an exploratory study, as two knowledge brokers we recorded our activities within a school of health in a large university setting using the Expert Recommendations for Implementation Change (ERIC) categories over a period of nine months and reported the results in our recently published Evidence & Policy practice paper. We wanted to make sure that we helped knowledge brokers know what the job consisted of when they showed up to work on a Monday morning. Thus, the birth of Knowledge Brokerage: The Musical – an analogy to help explain the role of knowledge brokers in higher education.

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Evidence-based practice in social care: straitjacket – or fluid support?

Isabella Pistone, Allan Lidström, Ingemar Bohlin, Thomas Schneider, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak and Morten Sager

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Evidence-based practice and management-by-knowledge of disability care: Rigid constraint or fluid support?’.

Evidence-based practice in social work is often critiqued for constraining practices by emphasising rigid methods and standardised interventions that exclude professional and clients’ experiences. Our research within disability care found rather it catalysed a dynamic interplay between local and external knowledge, as explained in our recently published Evidence & Policy article.

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Breaking the fourth wall: evidence communication inside policy organisations

Christiane Gerblinger

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Peep show: a framework for watching how evidence is communicated inside policy organisations’.

Seeing how governments formulate decisions is a crucial component of their ability to claim democratic legitimacy. This includes being seen to draw on the knowledge and evidence produced by their civil service policy advisers. Yet much of the advice provided to governments is being increasingly withdrawn from public accessibility.

With governments likely to benefit from a status quo that normalises withdrawal of policy processes and rationales from public view, it is important to find alternative ways to illuminate how policy officials communicate their evidence and how that evidence is used in political contexts by governments to make decisions on our behalf.

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In the age of evidence-based decision-making, where can education decision makers really turn for evidence?

Fiona Hollands and Venita Holmes

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, Comparing evidence on the effectiveness of reading resources from expert ratings, practitioner judgements, and research repositories’.

In 20172018, a large school district in the U.S. was threatened by the state education agency with closure of 23 struggling elementary schools unless it could improve students’ performance on state-mandated assessments. The district’s Office of Elementary Curriculum and Development immediately tried to determine which reading resources (reading programmes, assessments, online tools, book collections, and professional development supports) were available at each school and to assess their effectiveness at improving student reading proficiency. To help with this evaluation task, our research-practice team explored various options for quickly providing suitable evidence on the effectiveness of each of 23 reading resources used at one or more of these schools. We expected to find reasonable consistency across multiple sources of information that we could use to help guide the district’s actions. The results were not quite as expected.

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Applications of the Use of Research Evidence (URE) Methods Repository

Drew Gitomer, Kevin Crouse, Nikki Dreste and Meged Eisenberg

We recently announced in the William T. Grant Foundation Digest the launch of the Use of Research Evidence (URE) Methods Repository, a new, open resource in development that focuses on the use of research evidenceThe Repository is housed in a Collection on the Open Science Framework (OSF), and we welcome contributions in which detailed research methods are catalogued in an open-access format. One of our principal goals in designing this resource is to serve and connect the broad community of stakeholders that engage with and around topics focusing on the Use of Research Evidence (URE). Accordingly, we have designed the Repository so that it can be used in multiple ways that are tailored to the different interests and goals that different potential users have.  

As we were designing the Repository, we envisioned an open-access resource for the broad community of URE participants. This includes providing a space for the URE research community to share and display a fuller description of their methodological approaches than typically appear in final publications and making those approaches accessible to those who are interested in discovering or reviewing research methods that are used in URE studies. We saw value in ensuring that practitioners, funders, and others outside of academic research could access all of the resources without needing a paid subscription or institutional account. We also want to engage researchers and graduate students in the social sciences who have not done research in URE but are interested in learning more about the questions and spaces they address.

In this blog post, we describe the most common intended use applications of the URE Methods Repository.

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Empathy is key to addressing obstacles to policy progress

Serena Bartys

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Empathy is key: addressing obstacles to policy progress of ‘work-focused healthcare’’.

Pre-pandemic, the UK government estimated that work loss due to ill-health costed around £100bn per year. This problem places an unsustainable burden on health, employment and welfare systems, and is a major cause of socioeconomic disadvantage and inequality. The potential for healthcare to reduce this burden has been reflected in numerous UK policy initiatives and clinical guidance ever since 2008, when Dame Carol Black published her seminal report Working for a Healthier Tomorrow.

However, over a decade later, avoidable work disability remains a leading public health concern. One key concept – healthcare professionals discussing work with their patients during routine consultations – has remained elusive in practice. There are clearly significant obstacles to translating ‘work-focused healthcare’ policy into practice. Our Evidence & Policy article sheds light on what those obstacles are and how they may be addressed. It raises wider concerns about how scientific evidence is used and understood by policymakers, making a novel contribution to the expanding literature which suggests that researcher-policy-practice relationships are key factors in mobilising the evidence.  

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How can we support evidence-informed policymaking on the African continent?

Joseph Adu, Sebastian Gyamfi, Ebenezer Martin-Yeboah and Mark Fordjour Owusu

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Knowledge translation platforms to support African evidence-informed policies: challenges and progress’.

Evidence-based policy is key to reducing public health problems worldwide. The late 2000s witnessed a breakthrough in maternal healthcare delivery in Southern Africa by way of a policy initiative that allowed the use of magnesium sulphate to prevent pregnancy induced hypertension-related deaths among pregnant women. Pregnancy induced hypertension was identified as the single most important cause of death among pregnant women in the Africa sub-region. This feat was attained through the concerted efforts of a team of international researchers, local researchers, health practitioners (academic obstetricians) and policymakers from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa who harnessed their individual knowledge into a policy to address this long existing health scare.

In our review, we found that the intervention by EVIPNet (in making giant strides in the fight against malaria in Africa) improved the capacities of knowledge among institutions on the continent through publication of policy briefs and peer-reviewed articles – resulting in an increment in Africa’s share in global research. This effort, apart from creating awareness about the health challenges on the continent, also served as a springboard to attract researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders as a community of actors championing knowledge translation in Africa.

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New Editors in Chief of Evidence & Policy

We are pleased to introduce the new Editors in Chief of Evidence & Policy: Professor Zachary Neal, Michigan State University, USA and Professor Caroline Oliver, University College London, UK, who took over from the journal’s previous Co-Editors Professor Katherine Smith, University of Strathclyde, UK and Dr Mark Pearson, Hull York Medical School, UK as of January 2022.

Evidence & Policy is the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to a comprehensive and critical assessment of the relationship between researchers and the evidence they produce and the concerns of policymakers and practitioners.

International in scope and interdisciplinary in focus, it addresses the needs of those who develop public policies, provide public services, or provide the research base for evaluation and development across a wide range of social and public policy issues (e.g. criminal justice, employment and welfare, education, environmental protection, finance, health, housing, international development, social care, and transport), and those who are working to connect the two (such as knowledge brokers).

Zachary Neal, Incoming Co-Editor in Chief of Evidence & Policy, said:

“Mark Pearson and Katherine Smith have done amazing work to establish Evidence & Policy as a leading outlet for research on knowledge translation. I am excited to build on their hard work and look forward to incorporating open science practices that help make this research transparent and available to everyone.”

Caroline Oliver, Incoming Co-Editor in Chief of Evidence & Policy, said:

“It feels an honour to take on the role as Co Editor in Chief with Zak, and we look forward to continuing the great work that Katherine and Mark have done with Evidence & Policy over recent years. In this position, I am looking forward to maintaining the high quality of publications in the journal, as well as encouraging a diversification of articles published in terms of geographic focus, topics, disciplines and theoretical underpinnings, to further that aim.”

We join Professor Neal and Professor Oliver in thanking Co-Editors Professor Katherine Smith, University of Strathclyde, UK and Dr Mark Pearson, Hull York Medical School, UK for their dedication, their excellent stewardship of the journal and the many achievements that have marked their term as Editors in Chief.