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Making an impact with research: How to engage critically with well-meaning advice

The ‘impact’ agenda has prompted many academics and organisations to recommend how to use research to influence policy and practice. In this post, Paul Cairney and Kathryn Oliver reflect on the value of this advice and warn against taking it too firmly to heart. The post trails their forthcoming contribution to ‘UoN Engaged’, hosted at the University of Nottingham on the 17th of September. 

In 2019, we published two articles about the most frequently-offered advice to academics about how to use research to make an impact on policy. Both articles are based on a systematic review of the many ‘how to’ guides produced by unusually successful scientists or knowledge brokerage organisations in blogs and short reports.

In ‘How Should Academics Engage in Policymaking to Achieve Impact?’, we show that this advice is highly consistent, ‘largely because it is necessarily vague, safe, and focused primarily on individuals’. In most cases, high profile researchers are asked to reflect on their personal experiences rather than produce research on impact. This type of advice has two biases. First, most are written from the perspective of high status white, male, global north scientists, who have relatively easy access and good support to do policy engagement. Their advice often does not apply to more junior scholars who lack access and resources, and it rarely addresses the higher risk of engagement to women and people of colour. Second, it tends to…

Continue at the Universities Policy Engagement Network


Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay.