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Using evidence

Using evidence: How research can inform public services

Sandra M. Nutley
Isabel Walter
Huw T.O. Davies
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  • Book Info
    Using evidence
    Book Description:

    This book provides a timely and novel contribution to understanding and enhancing evidence use. It builds on and complements the popular and best-selling What Works?: Evidence-based policy and practice in public services (Davies, Nutley and Smith, Policy Press, 2000), by drawing together current knowledge about how research gets used and how this can be encouraged and improved. In particular, the authors explore various multidiscipliary frameworks for understanding the research use agenda; consider how research use and the impact of research can be assessed; summarise the empirical evidence from the education, health care, social care and criminal justice fields about how research is used and how this can be improved and draw out practical issues that need to be addressed if research is to have greater impact on public services. Using evidence is important reading for university and government researchers, research funding bodies, public service managers and professionals, and students of public policy and management. It will also prove an invaluable guide for anyone involved in the implementation of evidence-based policy and practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-232-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of boxes, figures and tables
    (pp. vi-ix)
  2. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xii)
    Sandra Nutley, Isabel Walter and Huw Davies
  3. ONE Using evidence – introducing the issues
    (pp. 1-32)

    Research on children’s early years tells us that people’s life chances are heavily influenced by their experiences from a very early age (Schweinhart and Weikart, 1993; Ramey et al, 2000). Growing recognition of this has fed into important debates that range far beyond an academy of scholars to encompass a wide range of stakeholders, such as agencies, service providers and — perhaps most importantly of all — policy makers, including those at the UK Treasury. Changes in thinking off the back of these debates can be seen to have informed radical changes to the provision and financing of public services since the...

  4. TWO What does it mean to ‘use’ research evidence?
    (pp. 33-60)

    This chapter examines what we mean when we talk about ‘using’ research. Research use is a complex and multifaceted process, and the use of research often means different things to different people. For example, does using research involve simply reading the findings from research as part of general background briefings? Does it mean examining research in making a decision — even if the evidence scanned is ultimately rejected as unhelpful? Or is it necessary for research to have had a direct impact on policy choices or practice behaviours for us to be able to say that research has been ‘used’? This...

  5. THREE What shapes the use of research?
    (pp. 61-90)

    In Chapter Two we identified the many different ways in which the policy and practice communities can make use of research. This chapter begins to examine in more detail the processes through which research enters policy and practice, and the kinds of conditions and circumstances that seem to support the use of research. We begin by exploring the channels through which research may travel into the policy and practice arenas. Identifying these routes for research starts to highlight the sorts of processes through which research gets used, as well as the points at which the flow of research may be...

  6. FOUR Descriptive models of the research impact process
    (pp. 91-124)

    In this chapter we examine the different ways in which relationships between research and policy and research and practice have been conceptualised. Such models provide different frameworks for thinking about and understanding the research use process. As such, they capture some of the complexities that forms of research use take, which we discussed in Chapter Two; and they highlight some of the assumptions that underpin the different studies of the use of research encountered in Chapter Three. At the same time, these models also help us begin to think about the ways in which we might improve the use of...

  7. FIVE Improving the use of research: what’s been tried and what might work?
    (pp. 125-154)

    Chapter Four identified the principal models that we have for understanding the relationships between research and policy and research and practice. This chapter examines the different strategies that have been used to attempt to improve research use in relation to these different models. Research use improvement strategies are underpinned — explicitly or implicitly — by different frameworks for conceptualising both the nature of research use and the research use process. These different ways of thinking shape the kinds of research use initiatives that are put in place. In this chapter, we focus in particular on the putative mechanisms that seem to underpin...

  8. SIX What can we learn from the literature on learning, knowledge management and the diffusion of innovations?
    (pp. 155-194)

    There is an emerging view that strategies and interventions aimed at promoting research use are most effective when underpinned by an appropriate theoretical framework. The previous chapter identified what some of these may be and summarised some of the evidence for their effects from research studies of research use. However, theorising in this area is not yet well developed. This chapter considers three additional bodies of theory and evidence that can inform the design of strategies to promote research use but which have not yet been widely applied in this area. These are learning, knowledge management and the diffusion of...

  9. SEVEN Improving research use in practice contexts
    (pp. 195-230)

    As will be evident from much of the discussion to this point, we believe that research can play a positive role in informing the development of public services. Thus, encouraging and enabling research use in practice settings seems to us to be a laudable aim, especially ifuseis defined broadly to encompass the conceptual as well as the instrumental uses of research, and other forms of knowledge are respected and drawn upon in the process of encouraging that use. But how should we seek to encourage research use? In Chapter Five we discussed what we know about the effectiveness...

  10. EIGHT Improving research use in policy contexts
    (pp. 231-270)

    In Chapter Seven we discussed the role played by government in promoting research use in practice settings. We now consider its own use of research in developing and implementing policy. In doing so, we aim to tease out the lessons from previous chapters about improving research use in government settings. We focus largely on national policy making, although we comment on the relevance of our analysis for regional and local policy settings towards the end of the chapter.

    As we noted in Chapter Five, good empirical evidence about what works to improve research use in policy contexts is relatively thin...

  11. NINE How can we assess research use and wider research impact?
    (pp. 271-296)

    Throughout this book we have been concerned to document the complexities of research use, and the diversity of ways in which such use has been conceptualised. Building on these understandings we have then sought to explain how research use might be improved or enhanced in a wide variety of public service settings. This chapter takes these debates further by asking — given all the complexity, diversity and messiness of research use — how can both research use processes and the resultant impacts be assessed? As we shall see, work fully assessing research impacts, in particular work that takes account of the kinds...

  12. TEN Drawing some conclusions on Using evidence
    (pp. 297-320)

    We began this book by highlighting that sometimes research has an impact and sometimes it does not. We made it clear that we were interested in understanding the processes of influence of researchbased knowledge in policy and practice arenas, how such influence is mediated, blocked or amplified, and how the praxis of policy making and service delivery may change in the face of a deeper degree of research engagement. More than this, we pinned our colours to a positive agenda: a belief that by understanding research use processes we would be in a better position to encourage an increase in...