Duelling narratives: historical knowledge mobilisation in the United States

Joel Malin and Dustin Hornbeck

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Historical knowledge mobilisation in a post-factual era in the United States

Public debates about history are nothing new, but in recent years – with the convergence of new media platforms and a tumultuous political atmosphere – we have noticed debates centred on duelling historical interpretations are becoming increasingly conspicuous and are engaging the public. In fact, both evidence-based and false, or misleading, historical claims are being brought forth all the time, apparently in efforts to influence key decisions and/or pushing for social change. This drive to mobilise historical knowledge, we also assume, reflects a shared understanding that our history and how we think about it matters – i.e. that different understandings of the past can help us navigate the present, pointing the way to different policies and, perhaps, a more just future.

We understand this strengthening phenomenon as historical knowledge mobilisation, and we set out to better understand its underpinnings, nature and impacts. We drew upon Ward’s (2017) ‘framework for knowledge mobilisers’ to analyse what and whose knowledge is being shared and how and why this is happening. Though we focused primarily on university-based mobilisers (academic historians and history-adjacent scholars), we also observed how non-academics actively inhabit this territory. Indeed, as we revealed, historians and non-historians alike are acting to mobilise the usable past in service of the present. Further, and on a partisan basis, we detect duelling preferences for ‘historical memories’ that either motivate progressive social change or favour policy inaction/reversal.

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When do public-academic partnerships lead to evidence use in policymaking?

Amy Preston Page and Christina Kang-Yi

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Public-academic partnerships to foster use of research evidence in improving youth outcomes: findings from document analysis

Child welfare and youth mental health services in the United States are complex and often disjointed. Government policies and funders increasingly require evidence-based care from these agencies. To meet this demand, partnerships between public care agencies and academic researchers have become popular in recent years. While these public-academic partnerships or ‘PAPs’ have demonstrated a positive impact on improving use of research evidence by public care agency leaders, we still have limited knowledge about how these partnerships work and which partnership characteristics may contribute to evidence use.

In our Evidence and Policy article, ‘Public-academic partnerships to foster use of research evidence in improving youth outcomes: findings from document analysis’, we analysed documents from 23 US PAPs aiming to improve mental health and promote well-being of youth aged 12–25 years. We found that the PAPs had diverse partnership goals including implementation and dissemination of research/evaluation evidence, information sharing, and prioritising and streamlining research processes. PAPs sustained longer than 10 years had more focused goals while PAPs 10 years or newer were engaged in more diverse goals. The majority of PAPs used journal articles, presentations and multimedia as dissemination strategies. Several PAPs had a large volume of material available online while others had very little.

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Community support versus health care services: time to change our definition of impact

Janet Harris and Alexis Foster

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Using knowledge brokering to produce community-generated evidence

Non-profit community anchor organisations in England typically provide a range of support to local people, including wellbeing support, advocacy, social activities, and training and employment advice. This array of services takes a wider perspective on the determinants of health than the approach taken within the National Health Service (NHS), which generally focuses on mental and physical ill health.

Despite the different approaches, the funding for community anchor organisations is often dependent on the impact they have on health outcomes. Is this a good basis for judging the value of holistic support?

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Maximising stakeholder engagement to prioritise future research

Natalie Kennie-Kaulbach, Jennifer E. Isenor and Sarah Kehoe

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Use of a knowledge exchange event strategy to identify key priorities for implementing deprescribing in primary healthcare in Nova Scotia, Canada

How can complex research results be shared with diverse stakeholder groups? How can stakeholders be engaged in generating future research priorities? How can diverse stakeholder voices be represented? The transfer of knowledge gained from research to stakeholders is becoming increasingly important for the uptake of results into policy and practice and to inform the direction of future research. We take this opportunity to share our perspectives on maximising stakeholder engagement and strategies for successful uptake.

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A ‘RECIPE’ with example principles and strategies for research partnerships

Femke Hoekstra, SCI Guiding Principles Consensus Panel and Heather L. Gainforth

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Principles and related strategies for spinal cord injury research partnership approaches: a qualitative study

How can we improve the use of research findings in policy, community and service settings? The answer could be simple: do research together with people that will use and can benefit from the research. In other words, do research in partnership with research users. While this sounds promising, building and maintaining meaningful partnerships is rarely so simple. Tokenistic approaches to research partnerships are a particular risk – this happens when research users are asked to endorse a research project over which they have little control.

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Embedding researchers in service organisations: what do initiatives look like and how can they be cultivated?

Dr Vicky Ward

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy articles ‘Embedding researchers into organisations: a study of the features of embedded research initiatives‘ and ‘A framework to support the design and cultivation of embedded research initiatives‘.

Embedding researchers in service organisations is the latest in a long line of approaches to better link the worlds of research and practice. Embedded researchers have become particularly popular in the field of healthcare, but can also be found in education and local government. As with any new initiative, one of the big questions on people’s minds is ‘does it work’? The problem, though, is that until now we haven’t had a clear picture of what ‘it’ (i.e. embedded research) is and how those interested in the approach might design an initiative.

To address this, our research team (a diverse group including researchers and healthcare managers) set out to better understand what embedded research initiatives look like in practice and produce a practical framework for anyone involved in designing or cultivating an initiative.

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Guidelines for healthcare about promotion of healthy lifestyle habits – what knowledge should they be based on?

Helena Lagerlöf, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak and Morten Sager

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Epistemological deliberation: the challenges of producing evidence-based guidelines on lifestyle habits

Drafting recommendations is an art that requires more attention to the choices between different views of knowledge, formats and standards and their ramifications.

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What is peer learning and how can it advance the implementation of evidence-based practices?

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Examining peer learning as a strategy for advancing uptake of evidence-based practices: a scoping review‘.

S. Kathleen Worton

The implementation of evidence-based practices can enhance the quality and effectiveness of supports in sectors such as social services and healthcare. Peer learning is a valuable but often overlooked strategy to help those adopting a new practice gain the knowledge and skills they need to implement it successfully.

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PODCAST: The many faces of disability

This podcast is based on the special issue of Evidence & Policy ‘‘The many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice: embracing complexity.

Carol Rivas and Ikuko Tomomatsu

In this episode of the Transforming Society Podcast, Jess Miles speaks with Carol Rivas and Ikuko Tomomatsu, two of the guest editors of a special issue of Evidence & PolicyThe many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice: embracing complexity’.

They discuss the problems with current representations of disability, recent examples of policy that has failed disabled people and the changes that could be made so people with disabilities can be better supported and allowed to participate in policy making.

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Four things we have learned about national evaluation policies in Africa

Caitlin Blaser-Mapitsa, Takunda Chirau and Matodzi Amisi

National evaluation policies are one way of demonstrating a willingness in government to promote the use of evidence in a systemic way. Our recently published Evidence & Policy article, ‘Policies for evidence: a comparative analysis of Africa’s national evaluation policy landscape‘, explores the relationship between evaluation policies and evaluation systems. We have found that policies are one piece of the puzzle acting to strengthen undertaking of evaluations, evidence use, and build evaluation practice in Africa.

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