Ruth Stewart et al.: Transforming evidence for policy: do we have the evidence generation house in order?

For decades, researchers, knowledge brokers and policymakers have been working to increase the use of evidence in policymaking. This has spanned a wide range of approaches, from developments in evidence generation, to efforts to increase demand amongst decision-makers, and everything in between. Policymakers are central in this process, and we have well documented examples of how the policy system in some countries is increasingly embedding evidence into routine decision-making processes. These structural shifts are the holy grail of those who work to support the use of evidence, achieving degrees of ‘ownership’ and ‘institutionalisation’ of evidence-informed policy within governments. However, if one examines evidence generation, you see a lack of equivalent structural developments in the system for evidence generation, in particular research evidence. Academics may be increasingly likely to disseminate their research effectively. Funders may be demanding greater policy impact from research. Nevertheless, when looking at the core investment by countries for knowledge production (referred to as National Systems for Innovation in some contexts), several agencies constituting these systems – from science councils, universities, advisory bodies, funders and innovation centers – continue to incentivize established and new academics to use individualised motives to influence collective decisions and effect changes on broader, complex societal challenges. There is a case to be made that the evidence generation system needs reform if it is to lead to the desired transformation, and that a transformed evidence system needs to be better geared to interact with the policy-practice processes and systems which ultimately influence society.

Citation: Stewart, R., Dayal, H., Langer, L. et al. Transforming evidence for policy: do we have the evidence generation house in order?. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 9, 116 (2022).