Translation across borders: exploring the use, relevance and impact of academic research in the policy process


Principal Investigator: Stephen Connelly
Co-investigators: Dr Catherine Durose, University of Birmingham; Dr Peter Matthews, University of Stirling; Ms Elizabeth Richardson, University of Manchester
Collaborators: Robert Rutherfoord, Dept of Communities & Local Government
Duration: From 2014 to 2015

The usefulness of academic research to policy making requires academic outputs to be easily taken up by policy makers. Yet mutual frustration persists. Academics often believe their evidence-based findings are ignored, while policy makers often feel that academic outputs are too abstract and/or complex to help in solving their problems. The overall aim of this project is to increase the usefulness and impact of academic research through gaining well-grounded insights into the reasons for these frustrations and testing possible solutions.

We start from the assumption that academics, policy makers, and the government research officers who mediate between them, have their own kinds of knowledge, ways of communicating, and needs from research. Further, knowledge is not simply created by researchers and transmitted to research ‘users’, but all those involved play an active role in creating meaning: at the borders between these groups they engage in (more-or–less collaborative) processes of translation. But these borders are where the differences between these groups can make translation more difficult.

The heart of the proposed research is to observe ‘in real time’ the translation and use of outputs from the recent Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded ‘policy briefings’ on Community governance in the context of decentralisation and Redefining service delivery, and in particular their application in support of the government’s Our Place (neighbourhood budgeting) initiative. Using observation, interviews, and workshops with researchers, government research analysts, and central and local government policy makers, we will investigate the modes of communication and types of knowledge they prefer and actually use, the factors which impede the translation of research and what practices can be changed in order to support better delivery of policy objectives.