Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Robert Stimson
Chapter 27: Research and its policy relevance
This chapter considers how high-quality social research can be undertaken, and communicated, in ways that are most useful and relevant for government policy-makers or for other end-users of research. The main focus is on the conduct and communication of independent academic research, and how it can be tailored to improve impacts without undermining reliability, objectivity and independence. Some issues are also noted in relation to applied research commissioned under research contracts. The chapter considers both the expressed and implicit needs of government decision-makers for certain types of information about the nature of social problems, the effectiveness of programmes, and the cost or benefit of various alternative options. There are serious gaps in knowledge about the extent to which research findings are actually being utilized by potential end-users. However there is widespread agreement that research findings are most influential when they are well targeted and well communicated. The goal of improved utilization of external research by government agencies (and by other end-users) will be advanced if researchers and policy-makers all try to learn more about each other’s business, and to better manage their mutual expectations in a joint quest for improved policy-relevant understanding.
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