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Posts tagged ‘density’

Promoting density: a few good examples from Britain, the US, and Australia

Some funders are pouring money into a few think tanks in developing countries. But little is being done to improve the environment in which they work (and will work). Central to this is the development of spaces in which ideas as presented and discussed, in public, by researchers, analysts, and experts.

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The density model: an alternative to trying to control the uncontrollable

Policy spaces with more information density are more likely to be better informed. How then can we promote greater availability of more and better information and knowledge about key public policy issues? This blog offers some ideas.

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‘I predict a riot’ -and then explain it

I had dinner with a few friends at Tanta in San Isidro, tonight, after the first day of a Latin American workshop on think tanks here in Lima -attended by think tank directors, communicators and researchers. (I’ll write about this soon). Knowing that I live in London (mostly) they asked me about the riots. What is going on?

I won’t offer my explanations -although I like the argument that suggests that the rioters (and many others) have grown up with the discourses of rights and entitlements while their responsibilities were taken away by the market and the state (or that they were probably bored)- but rather draw your attention to something that is already going on in the UK and that helps to illustrate the idea of density that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Even while the riots were ongoing, commentators and academics were offering explanations. The effort to understand what went on has been almost instinctive. And the public debate is now growing by the minute. As an example, have a look at the BBC’s competing arguments used to explain the riots article.

The debate also shows the importance of investing in research areas even if they do not attract the attention of the mainstream media of politicians. One day, some day, it may come in handy to know why the sh*t hit the fan.

Journalists, politicians, academics, and civil servants have all joined in:

Welfare dependence

Sir Max Hastings, in an article for the Daily Mail, focused on “a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline – tough love – which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live”.

There is a culture of entitlement in the UK, says David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University and a former prison governor.

But it’s not just about the underclass – it’s about politicians, it’s about bankers, it’s about footballers.

“It’s not just about a particular class, it permeates all levels of society. When we see politicians claiming for flat-screen TVs and getting jailed for fiddling their expenses, it’s clear that young people of all classes aren’t being given appropriate leadership.”

Social exclusion

Writing in the Independent, Kids Company charity founder Camila Batmanghelidjh blamed a society in which the “established community is perceived to provide nothing… It’s not one occasional attack on dignity, it’s a repeated humiliation, being continuously dispossessed in a society rich with possession”.

Studies do suggest that living in areas of social deprivation could be a factor, says Marian FitzGerald, visiting professor of criminology at the University of Kent.

“But the socially excluded are not always the ones who are rioting – in fact they are often the ones who are most vulnerable to riots. We need a better thought-out approach rather than just using social exclusion as an excuse.”

Lack of fathers

According to Cristina Odone of the Daily Telegraph, the riots could be traced back to a lack of male role models: “Like the overwhelming majority of youth offenders behind bars, these gang members have one thing in common: no father at home.”

“I brought up two boys on my own,” says Prof FitzGerald. “Yes, there are some issues about where boys get a positive sense of masculinity from when they don’t have anyone in the home to give it. But if you have a stable family set-up then these kids can still be very high-achieving.”

Spending cuts

Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight, Labour’s candidate for London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, suggested that austerity measures were responsible: “If you’re making massive cuts, there’s always the potential for this sort of revolt against that.”

It’s too soon to say this, Prof FitzGerald says. “The full implementation of the cuts to local authority services that will have the biggest impact on these areas will not be fully felt until next year.

“However, it may be that because there’s been so much talk about police spending cuts, the rioters may have internalised the message that they’re less likely to be caught.”

Weak policing

In a leader, the Sun newspaper said it was “crazy” that water cannon was not available to officers, and that parliament “must not be squeamish” about the use of tear gas and baton rounds.

There has also been discussion about the impact of the fall-out from criticism of policing during the G20 protests in London in 2009. Some commentators have suggested officers might be afraid of taking on the rioters directly for fear of legal action.

It may have made some difference if the rioters had been more immediately engaged with a more robust form of policing, says Prof Wilson.

“Several of the rioters who were interviewed clearly enjoyed the feeling of being powerful. They were encouraged to feel that the cities in which they were misbehaving belonged to them.

“However, I don’t think that has anything to do with political correctness. What has characterised British justice over the past 25-30 years is the large numbers of young people we have sent to prison compared with our European neighbours.”

Racism

Violence began in Tottenham on Saturday after the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man. Christina Patterson of the Independent said the race factor could not be overlooked: “Too many black men have been killed by the police. Too many black men and women have been treated like criminals when they’re not. This is not the cause of these riots, but it’s there in the mix.”

Police shootings are very rare, Prof FitzGerald notes.

“According to IPCC reports in the last three years there have only been seven and all of those – including the shooting of Raoul Moat – were of white people.

“The Met police has seen huge changes in attitude since the Macpherson report. That said, its use of section 60 stop-and-search powers disproportionately brought normally law-abiding young black people in particular into potentially confrontational encounters with the police.

“However, this is not true of many of the other police forces who are now facing similar threats to public order – so it cannot be used as any sort of excuse.”

Gangsta rap and culture

Paul Routledge of the Daily Mirror blamed “the pernicious culture of hatred around rap music, which glorifies violence and loathing of authority (especially the police but including parents), exalts trashy materialism and raves about drugs”.

It’s certainly clear that gang culture is a real phenomenon, says Prof Wilson.

“I once interviewed a boy who said ‘just because I like the music doesn’t mean I agree with the lyrics’, which is true,” says Prof FitzGerald. “But it may be a factor when it comes to those who may be particularly susceptible.”

Consumerism

“These are shopping riots, characterised by their consumer choices,” insisted Zoe Williams of the Guardian. She added: “This is what happens when people don’t have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can’t afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it.”

In studies of street crime, this has been shown to be a factor, says Prof FitzGerald.

“But with the recent riots, I’m not so sure – in the context of looting, it’s about taking what you can. As well as mobile phones and clothes, there were plenty stealing petty things like sweets and cans of beer.”

Opportunism

“As more and more people became embroiled in the riots, others have been tempted to join them, confident that one unexceptional individual in a sea of hundreds is unlikely to be caught or to face retribution,” according to Carolina Bracken writing in the Irish Times.

This is credible, says Prof Wilson. “Opportunism, mixed with a sense of being in a big gang, will have enticed many who wouldn’t necessarily do something like this normally.

“Also significant is the feeling of invulnerability because they are part of something so big. Also linked to this is the feeling of doing something transgressive and feeling powerful in a culture where they don’t have much power.

Technology and social networking

“Social media and other methods have been used to organise these levels of greed and criminality,” Steve Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, told reporters.

This is an under-explored phenomenon, suggests Prof Wilson.

“For years we’ve been aware of gangs and football hooligans have been using technology to get together and fight. I think the police have been quite slow to respond to this.

“But as we know, mobile phones can also be used to counteract criminality and to an extent I think that’s something the police prefer to downplay.”

Never mind the gap: on how there is no gap between research and policy and on a new theory (Part 3 of 3)

[This is the last of 3 posts on the Gap between research and policy -or the absence of one. In it I try to outline a new theory to assess the roles research may play in policymaking.]

First post (1 of 3)

Previous post (2 of 3)

A new theory: Density

If anything, the larger the project the easier it should be to influence change. According to Mirko Lauer, a Peruvian journalist, the key factor that explains why some policy issues are more likely to be informed by research based knowledge than others is the density of information about those issues. At an event for a Trade and Poverty in Latin America programme in Lima in 2009, he gave the example of economic policymakers in Peru who, as well as the general public, are exposed to a myriad of publications that provide an effective vehicle for research, analysis and opinions on almost all economic policy issues: all the mayor national broadsheets have a daily economics section, there are at least two national specialised monthly magazines, a number of weekly magazines and newsletters, The Economist, Business Week and the Financial Times are readily available, and there are many more email or web-based information services. Furthermore, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Central Bank, and the National Statistics Office have their own internal research teams, databases and publications.

Hence, Lauer argued, all economic decisions, even if they turn out to be mistakes (which would undoubtedly be picked up by specialised journalists and researchers and fed back though the mentioned channels), are necessarily informed on some evidence. This is clearly not the situation for other policy issues such as those related to indigenous groups, the environment, reproductive health, security, etc. where research and general information and arguments about them is sporadically gathered and communicated, and subject to the ‘what bleeds leads’ mantra of newspapers and public opinion.

This can explain sector or issue differences as well as the perception of individual players about the distance between research and policy. Systems with high density would have a clearly busy middle ground where multiple links between actors provide frequent and substantive interactions between research and policy. In less dense systems, on the other hand, the connections between research and policy would be fewer and less frequent making their members feel similarly isolated.

The concept of density might be difficult to accept in a context driven by the returns agenda. Density implies that efforts made by research centres and their funders should be focused on providing more and better knowledge to the public rather than communicating it more strategically to specific audiences. It implies, in some cases, creating and supporting credible competitors in the knowledge market rather than fighting to become the most influential or the most credible or the only alternative. For researchers, it means learning to rely on others to communicate and translate their work to reach non-expert publics.   For donors, it means that measuring the returns to research funding would be even more difficult than it is now; and learn to live with it.

Nonetheless, density is a concept that works well with the idea of a political system in which knowledge actors are just one more player and recognising that what matters are the links between research and policy, and not between researchers and policymakers.

Not all research is equally good

To make things more complex, not all research is of the same quality. More research is not, in itself, good. (And logically, not all researchers are good either.)

A recent World Bank study by Jishnu Das, Quy-Toan Do, Karen Shaienes and Sowemya Srinivasan on the geography of academic research shows a striking reality. They found a direct relation between per-capita publications on a country to its per-capita GDP. More significantly, though, they found that “1.5% of all papers written about non-US countries are published in the top-5 economics journals compared to 6.5% of all papers written about the US.” What this means is that for the poorest countries there are fewer economics peer reviewed studies available:

“Over a 20-year span dating from 1985 to 2004, the top 5 economics journals together published 39 papers on India, 65 papers on China, and 35 papers on all of Sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast they published 2,383 papers on the United States.”

Whatever may be said about the biases of these journals, more worryingly and pressing is that on the 20 poorest countries only 3 papers per country are published every 2 years. In the last 20 years, the only 6 papers written on Sierra Leone have been published in the main 202 peer-reviewed journals; 6 on Somalia, 16 on Rwanda, and 76 on Uganda. What are policymakers in these countries basing their economic policy decisions on?

In Zambia, members of the Central Bank and the Minister of Finance told me that the World Bank and the IMF are key sources of information. And what about research and analysis from Zambian researchers? Besides their own, pretty much nothing.

A key cause of this is that there are not many good researchers out there. The few highly competent researchers in poor countries are quickly identified and hired by their central banks (often the best staffed), the private sector and international donors. As a consequence, universities and local research centres are left (is this politically incorrect?) with second-rate researchers. (This is not their fault: blame their countries’ education systems.)

Nonetheless, anyone working on international development knows that there is quite a lot of information on some of these countries. Donors spend billions of dollars on research focused on the poorest countries in the developing world. Sub-Saharan Africa might not feature in the top economics peer reviewed journals but it is certainly the bread and butter of organisations such as ODI. For example, during the same period, ODI alone published 13 publications on Rwanda and 5 on Sierra Leone (not all about economics, though).

In any case, this means that many of the decisions made on economic policy by policymakers working on the poorest countries are largely based on non-peer reviewed research. And the research that is available, because a lot is being produced, comes from largely second-rate researchers and organisations (many of which are advocacy NGOs, not researchers).

Density then cannot be about quantity alone, but also about quality; and quality may be measured in terms of the characteristics of the outputs or their production and dissemination processes.

A new strategic direction

I have already outlined some recommendations for programmes or organisations like RAPID but before I provide some additional detail about these I would like to further explain this new theory to understand research uptake.

In this theory, lets call it the Density Theory, decisions take place within political spaces, which exist around specific policy processes but are connected to all others. These spaces involve different actors and belong to a broader political system (as we have seen above). In each space there is, depending on factors like the sector and issue or the actors involved and interested, a certain amount of information communicated through different means to all those directly or indirectly involved in the policy decision. For two spaces of similar size (number of issues or actors, length of the process, populations affected, etc.) the one with more availability of information will have higher density than the other. In other words, where there is plenty of information available about a particular policy issue through a number of competing and complementary media (including think tanks, newspapers, NGOs, government bodies, etc.) there is high density; whereas where little information is available or where there are few or not readily available sources of information there is low density.

The level of density will, however, need to be qualified by the quality of the information that is readily available. So, more density is not necessarily better than low density if all the information available is based on one-sided opinion, un-checked data, and untested assumptions. But this is probably something we are likely to only be able to notice if we oppose the arguments ourselves or with the benefit of hindsight.

The spaces themselves can also differ in their political relevance -or how many people or who they are relevant to. A space that draws significant public political interest then, may be described as one where a large number of people or well-organised political/interests groups are affected and therefore play a significant role in shaping the policy process and its outcomes. Spaces with low political interest, in contrast, would be those where decisions are not highly contested either because there are not known by the general public or because they are of no direct relevance to them or political/interest groups.

The following table describes this relationship:

High densityLow political interest

Decisions are likely to be informed by research based arguments and this will be chosen and used using technical or academic criteria

High density

High political interest

Decisions are likely to be informed by research informed arguments but this will be chosen and used using political criteria

Low densityLow political interest

Decisions are likely to be made by individuals or small and closed policy or interest groups and these are likely to be informed by personal values or interests or by the little research that is available

Low density

High political interest

 

Decisions are likely to be informed by political considerations and based on electoral demands and the public’s values or interests: in other words: votes count

The quality of the available information is likely to affect the outcomes of the decisions made.

What does this mean in practice? In general we would want to reduce the number of issues that are decided on votes alone and promote, as much as possible both public political engagement as well as decisions base don research based arguments. In some circumstances, political imperatives will be more adequate for the choice of arguments and their application (for example, the development of a school curricula –which must take the public’s views and values into account); but in others, academic or technical imperatives could prevail (for example, national security decisions).

More specifically, this new theory provides some practical recommendations to our donors, researchers, think tanks and to the rest of us.

First of all, we should pay more attention to the system as a whole and take notice of how its various components relate to each other in different contexts, sectors or policy issues –and we should take particular care of the different perspectives that various actors have of the whole system. Saying that the context matters is by now a cliché: it is about time that we attempted to unpack this and did something about it.

With an appropriate understanding of the system, donors could deploy a sort of Marshal Plan for high quality research that attends the clear research capacity shortfalls of many developing countries and simultaneously funds a significant increase in the flow and stock of research products with a particular attention to those of academic quality and policy relevance (which does not meant only policy relevant academic research; it s possible and it would be great to have both). This, of course, cannot happen without a commitment to a reform of (and in some cases a brand new) higher education policies.

Equally, donors should focus their efforts on developing and promoting strategies to strengthen the knowledge systems’ absorptive capacity. This includes the development of more specialised media publications and individual journalists, more spaces for policy debate, strengthening the relations between policymaking bodies, political parties and think tanks (internal and external), and developing analytical skills within policymaking bodies, among others.

More immediately, research programme like RAPID should pay more attention to the system and all of its actors –and not just researchers and their centres- when studying the role that research plays in policy processes. Their questions should focus on the factors that affect the various roles that different types of research play in different contexts. This will give them, and the researchers they work with, a much better view of the system as a whole and assist then in supporting them with their planning.

Support hence should continue to focus, more intensively, in the development of strategies to navigate through the system rather than to attempt to bridge the mythical gap: more in-depth political economy analysis capacity rather than communications tips. Applications of complexity theory that may help understand complex systems will be critically helpful –social network analysis should be on everyone’s to learn about list.

Navigation may make use of tools but nothing can replace the judgement of the captain and the crew.

Finally, we should also take a step back and reflect on how research is carried out in developed and developing countries. If we want the system to be injected with a healthy dose of research based arguments we need to unpack the institutions, structures and processes that make this happen –or prevent it. Why is it, for example, that peer-reviewed economic research seems to be almost entirely focused on the U.S.? What drives the sudden demand for support on writing policy briefs?  Who is doing research in the least developed countries? How is this funded? Why is there little national funding for research? Etcetera.

Never mind the gap: on how there is no gap between research and policy and on a new theory (Part 2 of 3)

[In the first part of this long post I discussed the concepts of the 'gap' and 'bridge' between research and policy. I argued that the idea of a gap limits the way we deal with research-policy interface. It leads to an often unintended oversimplification of the challenges faced and a reliance on impersonal approaches to communication.

Rather than a gap, we should think of a space that has people and organisations with relations between each other. The perception of the gap relates to our lack of knowledge or understanding of these relations -and sometimes, as I will discuss in greater detail later on, to the fact that there are, in fact, very few players. Therefore, rather than searching for bridges we should be looking for maps.]

Focus on research not on researchers

The literature and debate on ‘bridging research and policy’, often confuses the researcher with research (and the policymaker with policy).  We have, mainly because the sector is guided by a consultancy business model and a research communications narrative that is driven by giving the audience what the audience wants, sometimes become focused on (if not obsessed with) the influence of researchers or a particular piece of research on policymakers or on a particular policy (the audience –using a term straight from marketing, by the way). As a consequence, we have not always tackled some basic questions that would have helped us to identify and construct the more complex system suggested above. For instance, although our guiding objective is to make policy more informed by research, we have never been able to provide indication as to what should be considered as ‘more’ or ‘enough’ –or at least, an appropriate contribution, in any given system, of research on policy, vis à vis any other factors. I accept that we do not ask this as often as we should because we do not know how to calculate ‘enough’ and, driven by a competitive research-policy market funders do not want just any research to inform policy; they want it to be their research, and their researchers, that make the difference.

Some researchers and development practitioners that I have worked with often complain that the policies in their sectors or regions or countries are not based on research. As a consequence of this view and of donor demands for impact (and measures of impact), they are spending an increasing amount of resources and efforts developing and implementing policy influencing and communication strategies to change this. However, when I ask about who their main audiences are, it is never difficult to notice that the policymakers they are targeting already base their policy decisions on some research; only just not their research. Or, if it is theirs, then they are probably interpreting the evidence in a different way, influenced by a different development narrative, analytical framework or values, and so either dismiss it or implement what the researchers consider as being ill-advised recommendations.

As I have argued above, policymakers use their own networks to access the inputs they need to make decisions. Because networks are largely based on trust, the relationships between policymakers and their advisors or sources are bound to reflect the complex historical relations that exist between the research and policy communities; whether formal or informal, and personal or institutional. It seems sensible then to expect that only a small number of researchers will have access, through these networks, to decision makers; and that most researchers will have to be satisfied with contributing to general public narratives, the literature or informing their advisors, if they are lucky.

Therefore, I would suggest that when it comes to the roles of research in policy we should not worry too much about whose research this is; only that research plays a value-adding role. Our attention should maybe move beyond the skills and competencies of individual researchers and centres towards better understanding how and why research, in relation to other factors, influences policy and policymakers. Assistance, then, should be directed at the knowledge sector as a whole.

In terms of the type of research we should be doing this means that the unit of analysis may no longer be the researcher or research centres but their political context and their audiences –the other actors in the system. With respect to advisory work, support to developing strategies will benefit from this better understanding of the context in which we are working.

Sometimes it is good to hold back

Again, partly because we are driven by demand (from donors mostly) and the impression that we must communicate with communities way beyond our reach (on the other side of the imaginary gap) we often fail to consider that it might be possible that some researchers, some of whom may be perfectly well connected, choose not to engage with the policy process directly; and that, in fact, it may be counterproductive for them to do so. There seems to be an assumption that because in a progressive society, ‘evidence must to inform policy’, researchers themselves must therefore become pro-active agents in this process; regardless of who these researchers are, the type of research they conduct, the policy process they are related to, and the political context in which they work.  And little or no mention is ever made of their political or ideological affiliations.

This is in stark contrast with the, now obvious to everyone, lessons that the roles that research based knowledge plays in the policy process depend on the political context, on the sector or policy issue being addressed, and the organisations where research is being undertaken  –even though it is impossible to offer a blanket statement about what these roles are for a particular sector or a type of context or type of organisation.

The failure of the scientific community to deal with climate change sceptics, for instance, has been put down, by some practitioners in the research communications field, to their lack of engagement with the politics of climate change. Some even call for scientists to be more pro-active and politically savvy in their engagement. I disagree and would argue that these scientists’ research, probably more so than that any others, is already extremely relevant to policy and that engaging with the politics of the debate would only make it more difficult for their research to influence it. In a politically charged issue such as this, the impression independence is the one thing that will allow evidence based debate to take place and for well informed arguments to develop. If scientists were to (even unintentionally) pledge allegiance to any side of the discussion they would lose credibility (the only reason why they maintain a legitimate seat at the table) and rule themselves out of any further discussion; and we would all be worse off because of this.

There may be a role for other types of organisations in the system to fulfil this role. Remember that it is not empty: there are scientific journals, popular science authors and magazines, government scientists, scientific NGOs, think tanks, universities, schools, etc.

This is also true of national level politics in many developing countries. When the Nitlapán Institute of the Central American University in Nicaragua sought to inform the debate on trade and complementary policies their most powerful asset was that all parties perceived the University as an independent actor. Even when dealing with an issue like trade in which sides are clearly defined by their political and ideological allegiances, Nitlapán was able to convene all parties and facilitate a research-informed debate. This required a very careful negotiation of the fragile balance between objective academic research and political engagement with the various policy stakeholders.  But there was no bridging: Nitlapán was a connector and offered a space where they all met. Nitlapan played the dinner party host.

Obviously, in less contentious situations, where there is consensus around the problem, actively engaging with the policy process and the political debate that surrounds it might be possible and desirable: the immediate responses to the effects of the financial crisis, for example, called for politically as well as technically competent experts. But this has more to do with the public’s perception of what needs technical expertise and what needs common sense than anything intrinsic about the policy issue itself –and politicians would be fools (and the are) to go against this.

This assumption about the blanket need for more engagement appears to be in collusion with another equally questionable one: that an investment in the communication of research will lead to proportional increase in influence based on its findings. Andrew Rich’s study of the role of experts in U.S. policies shows that think tank’s communications capacities are unable to explain their experts’ substantive influence. The most important factors that determine the substantive influence of experts have to do with the policy context: the length of the policy process, who drives it, and the involvement of interest groups. Communication strategies may be able to influence the visibility of an expert and increase their chances of being called to, for example, give evidence to Congress or as a source for the media, but there is no empirical evidence that investing more on communications leads to more influence -certainly not to substantive influence.

James McGann’s go-to-think tanks index is based on the idea that more visibility is synonymous with influence. As a result, his top think tanks are the most popular –the ones that more of the people who respond to his survey know about; but not necessarily the most influential. As we have seen above, in the real system of complex relations between research and policy, influence is an outcome of the co-evolution of personal, formal and informal, relations. Because the survey is based on the partial views of a small group of respondent, the internal think tanks that hardly anyone knows about, academic departments with poorly designed websites that house foremost experts, and consultancies and privately funded interest groups that are probably the most connected players in the system, do not feature in the index.

This drive to invest (or spend) in communications is partly explained by donors’ own pressures to show, to their taxpayers or supporters, the return on their money. [Although recently, this very same argument has led to the freeze of all communication spending by DFID.] Research bodies in the Britain and the European Union as well as other development donors have indicated their interest in making research more relevant and promoting researchers’ active engagement with policy processes. DFID, for example, required all research programmes to spend around 30% of their budget on communications (AUSAID, expects something between 5-10%). Ironically, this policy is not based on evidence.  There is after all no conclusive evidence that more investment on communications leads to more influence; it is just common sense that your chances may be higher.

This proportional approach is, in my view, at least partially questionable. Yes, it has promoted a more serious discussion about research communications; yes, it has encouraged research programmes to think more systematically about what to do with their research findings; and, yes, it has led to research based knowledge being more easily accessible; but it does not reflect the very basic fact that the size of a research project has nothing to do (or may be at least inversely related) with the difficulty to influence. This approach assumes that it will be 10 times easier to bring about policy change for a £100k research project than for a £1 million one and that nothing else matters when dealing with research based policy influence: political contexts, policy processes, sectorial dynamics, interest groups, etc. do not seem to make a difference.

We know, however, that they do.

I have argued above that current and long term relations between the research and policy communities matter; that the relative positions and roles of individual actors in the system are critical in understanding their influence; and that the type of research and the sector or policy process itself greatly affects the need or appropriateness of an investment in communications.

In sum, in the context of a new policy research system where differences rather than empty spaces exist, I suggest that instead of encouraging all researchers to actively engage directly with policy processes we should encourage them to do what works best to contribute towards making research informed arguments is available and useful for policy as possible. This could very well be to keep quiet and run a few more tests, or to mix evidence with appeals to values, justice or arbitrary targets and goals. At the very least, policies towards encouraging the uptake of research should avoid blanket measures and demand bespoke strategies –with budgets that appropriately reflect the challenge.

Next week … 3 of 3

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