Fit for purpose? Assessing research quality for evidence based policy and practice
Traditional mechanisms for assuring research quality through peer review and quality standards (in the academic sector) and research professionalism (in the government and commercial sector) have failed to deliver consistently high quality research. In particular, peer review has proved unreliable and in some fields there is a lack of consensus as to what ‘counts’ as good quality research.
Although improving the effectiveness of existing quality assurance procedures is an immediate challenge for the research community, this paper goes on to argue that conceptualisations of research quality need to move beyond a fixation with methodological quality, to address the ‘fitness for purpose’ of research. One of the strengths of research, compared to other sources of knowledge available to decision makers, should be that it is a quality assured product carried out to pre-agreed standards. A broader notion of research quality should help researchers and research users to feel confident about the use of evidence in policy and practice.