You’ve been working away on your systematic review, you may have even got it published in an academic journal. But that’s not enough. You know your research has the potential to create impact outside of academia and really benefit people. The problem is that you’ve got no idea of how evidence based policy is made and how to get your research in front of policymakers.
What do policymakers want from systematic reviews? How does research get selected, interpreted and weaved into policy behind the scenes? Who should you approach and how should you approach them?
Professor Mike Kelly is a Senior Visiting Fellow in the Primary Care Unit, CIPH, and former Director of the Centre for Public Health at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) where he led the teams producing public health guidelines from 2005 to 2014. At a recent CIPH seminar, he shed light on this complex process for researchers interested in systematic reviews.
He pointed out that at least two to three reviews fed into each public health guideline at NICE. However, he also highlighted some of the difficulties of translating evidence into policy, including:
- Review questions are often not the same as policy questions
- One must interpret what the evidence would mean for individuals on the ground
- It is impossible to develop guidelines or to interpret evidence without reference to practical experience
His top tips for researchers included:
- Even though creating evidence-based policy is difficult, building an evidence base will help build momentum for an exchange of ideas around a potential policy
- Mix with policymakers to share your research
- For example, apply for a place at our policy engagement event on 8 June
- Talk about how your research will work for the policymaker and/or the end user/recipient (preferably both!), not why it is brilliant research and how clever you are
For further information, see Prof Kelly’s slides from this talk.
So now you understand how it works, but how can you best engage in the process? Professor Kelly and some of his colleagues, agree that timing is critical:
- While academics often work to deadlines measured in years, policymakers in Whitehall, and the politicians who direct them, sometimes work to deadlines measured in minutes and hours
- It is more helpful to tell a policymaker about your preliminary findings and to provide helpful context from your area of expertise when they are working on a policy (e.g. when a consultation is running) than to provide your complete findings after a policy has been implemented
CIPH’s Policy Coordinator, Lauren Milden, has also put together some practical tips for researchers wanting to engage with evidence-based policymaking here.
So what next? You can search open policy consultations that might be relevant to your research. We refresh this resource regularly so if you don’t see anything relevant today keep checking. We send the latest policy consultation opportunities to Cambridge researchers who are signed up to our PublicHealth@Cambridge Network newsletter, you can sign-up here.
If you want to find out more, and get an opportunity to meet with local authorities and Public Health England representatives, you might also be interested in attending our free CIPH mental health event, connecting researchers with policymakers. It takes place 28/4/17. Please register here.
If you are a CIPH researcher currently working on a policy consultation, or planning to engage with a specific open consultation, and need some extra guidance please contact Lauren Milden at firstname.lastname@example.org.