Communicating research to policymakers: researchers' experiences

Communicating research to policymakers: researchers' experiences

Policymakers and advocates agree that using evidence to inform decisions is essential for good policymaking and program design, given that limited resources require decisionmakers to allocate budgets effectively. Recognising these issues, funders have invested resources in communicating research findings to inform and empower decisionmakers. But despite these investments, many researchers continue to encounter challenges in sharing their research findings with policymakers.

To create an environment where research can inform policy, both researchers and decision-makers must collaborate and jointly invest inthe process of bringing evidence to policy—by creating incentives for researchers to consider or discuss policy implications and for policy-makers to seek out research results or to help shape research agendas.

This brief highlights the experiences of four research teams who communicated findings from studies supported under the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Population and Poverty Research Initiative (PopPov). Each research endeavor was unique in its strategic approach, subject matter, policy environment, and outcome. In addition, different PopPov partners funded the grants for each research study. The United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded a study of emergency obstetric care in Burkina Faso; and a study of unintended fertility in Karonga, Malawi. The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) awarded research grants for a study of teenage pregnancy and education outcomes in Cape Town, South Africa; and a study of household family planning decisionmaking in Lusaka, Zambia. ESRC required that research teams develop and implement a communication plan, and report on its results, while PRB made no specific research dissemination requirement.

Evidence-based policymaking requires that researchers and policymakers collaborate and communicate effectively with each other. How to bridge the cultural and professional divides between these two communities is not always clear, and effective strategies are not often easy to implement. Moreover, preparing research findings for policy audiences has proven to be a time-consuming task that requires particular skills, financial support for sustained outreach efforts, and participation of a wide array of stakeholders. The cases presented in this brief demonstrate that some degree of success in communicating results and having impact is achievable with a high level of commitment on the part of researchers, funders, and stakeholders.

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