Researchers are working to identify the most effective way for policymakers to tap into the UK's world-leading research expertise and knowledge. The ultimate aim is to help government officials make robust policy decisions that make a difference to our lives.
The development is thanks to the creation of two one-year Areas of Research Interest (ARI) Fellowships. The fellowships are a partnership between the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the Government Office for Science.
The two fellows, an ARI Research Engagement Fellow and an ARI Policy Engagement Fellow, will facilitate strong and effective collaborations between researchers and policymakers, with the longer-term goal to better inform policy and ensure that the UK's world-leading research benefits everyone.
The ARI documents, which detail the main research questions facing government departments, are a key platform through which academia can engage with government. This development was in direct response to recommendations in the 2015 Nurse review of the UK Research Councils – reinforced in the Government Chief Scientific Adviser's recent review of how government uses science.
Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said:
"We must ensure that policy is informed by the best possible evidence. The research community and policy makers need to work more closely together to address some of the most pressing issues our nation faces.
"These fellowships provide a significant opportunity to bring together policy makers and researchers in the heart of government to improve outcomes for our citizens."
Dr Kathryn Oliver of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, ARI Policy Engagement Fellow, said:
"I am very excited to be working with the Government Office for Science, the ESRC and Annette as the Policy ARI Fellow. The ARIs are a real opportunity to transform our understanding of how government can make better use of academic expertise and evidence.
"We will be working to learn about and test the best mechanisms to support effective and ethical engagement between government and academia."
Professor Annette Boaz of Kingston University, ARI Research Engagement Fellow, said:
"This commitment by ESRC and the Government Office for Science is a timely and important step towards making better use of research evidence in policy in the UK. As the ARI Research Fellow, I will work with Kathryn to build on what we know about the importance of engagement, and recognise good practice around the existing ARI work.
"The next step is to reach out to the UK research community, to develop innovative and effective research engagement mechanisms, and to create opportunities for policy-relevant research and engagement activities."
Jennifer Rubin, ESRC's Executive Chair, said:
"We are delighted to collaborate with the Government Office for Science to help bring our world-leading research base closer to those with pressing policy questions through the Areas of Research Interest published by Government departments.
"This is an important chance to evolve ways of working across to inform policy and improve outcomes for the wider public at a time of significant change and investment."
Professor Boaz will identify and convene research expertise appropriate to address selected ARIs and enable dialogue with government departments to refine and develop the ARIs. Dr Oliver will engage policymakers across government to enable development and delivery of evidence-informed and innovative methods and tools to facilitate interactions between cross-disciplinary/sector expert groups of researchers and policy makers to support refinement of ARIs.
The fellowships will last for one year, with the potential to extend to two years, and started in December 2019. ESRC has awarded each fellow up to £100,000, with both fellows seconded into the Government Office for Science.
- Nurse Review recommendations
- 2015 Nurse Review
- Government Science Capability Review
- Areas of Research Interest
- Dr Kathryn Oliver of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, ARI Policy Engagement Fellow, is a social scientist with interests in how evidence is produced, discussed and used in policy. Originally trained as a molecular biologist, she started her career in social science through conducting evidence syntheses for different UK government departments. Via a PhD studying public policy and evidence use in Greater Manchester, she now uses mixed-methods, network and documentary approaches to study questions like how researchers collaborate to produce useful evidence, the impact of long-term research funding on government and academia, the ways in which evidence is produced and translated in different policy sectors, and the strategies and structures which promote effective and ethical engagement. With Annette Boaz, she runs the Transforming Evidence collaboration, which is an international group of funders, scholars and research users working together to identify, collate, and conduct novel research into how evidence is made and used.
- Professor Annette Boaz of Kingston University, ARI Research Engagement Fellow, is a social scientist with interests in how evidence is produced, discussed and used in policy and practice. Annette has more than 25 years of experience in supporting the use of evidence across a range of policy domains. She was part of one of the largest UK investments in the evidence use landscape, the ESRC Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice and has undertaken an international leadership role in promoting the use of evidence. She is a Founding Editor of the first international journal in the field and has recently published a new book on evidence use 'What Works Now? Evidence Informed Policy and Practice' With Kathryn Oliver, she runs the Transforming Evidence collaboration, which is an international group of funders, scholars and research users working together to identify, collate, and conduct novel research into how evidence is made and used.
- The Government Office for Science
- The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
- The ESRC is the UK's largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK's future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policy-makers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.
- UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.
- Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.