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Publication Detail
Improving the use of evidence in legislatures: the case of the UK Parliament
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Rose DC, Kenny C, Hobbs A, Tyler C
  • Publisher:
    Bristol University Press
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice
  • Status:
    Published online
  • Print ISSN:
  • Language:
Despite claims that we now live in a post-truth society, it remains commonplace for policy makers to consult research evidence to increase the robustness of decision making. Few scholars of evidencepolicy interfaces, however, have used legislatures as sites of study, despite the fact that they play a critical role in modern democracies. There is thus limited knowledge of how research evidence is sourced and used in legislatures, which presents challenges for academics and science advisory groups, as well as to others interested in ensuring that democratic decisions are evidence-informed. Here, we present results from an empirical study into the use of research in the UK Parliament, obtained through the use of a mixed methodology, including interviews and surveys of 157 people in Parliament, as well as an ethnographic investigation of four committees. Here we are specifically interested in identifying the factors affecting the use of research evidence in Parliament with the aim of improving its use. We focus on providing advice for the Higher Education Sector, which includes improving knowledge of, and engagement in, parliamentary processes, reform of academic incentives to stimulate the production of policy-relevant information and to assist engagement, and working with trusted knowledge brokers. Implementing this advice should improve the chances that parliamentary decision making is informed by research evidence.<br /><br />Key messages<br /><br /><ul><li>The terms ‘research’ and ‘evidence’ are interpreted broadly by parliamentarians and the staff supporting them.</li><br /><li>The use of research evidence in the UK Parliament is influenced by four key factors: credibility, relevance, accessibility, and timing.</li><br /><li>Academic research evidence is valued, but its use was reported to be limited because of perceptions that it: is overly specialised for a policy audience (lacks relevance); has low visibility as an information source and can be difficult to obtain or understand (lacks accessibility); and that it is often poorly attuned to the timing of parliamentary decision making processes, such as select committee inquiries.</li><br /><li>We argue that deeper engagement between the higher education sector and legislatures could enhance each other’s ability to address key challenges, but that achieving this would require changes to incentive and support structures in academia.</li></ul>
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