If academics are serious about research impact they need to learn from monitoring, evaluation and learning teams

The impact of academic research, particularly on policy and the private sector, is an increasingly important component of research assessment exercises and funding distribution. However, Duncan Green argues that the way many researchers think about their impact continues to be pretty rudimentary. A lack of understanding of who key decision-makers are, a less-than-agile response to real-world events, and difficulties in attributing credit are all hampering progress in this area. Looking at how impact is measured by aid agencies, there is much academics could learn from their monitoring, evaluation and learning teams.

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Independent verification of the UK’s greenhouse gas report: holding the Government to account

PhD student, Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol

Dan Say, PhD student, Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol

In the early hours of October 15th, negotiators from over 170 countries finalised a legally binding accord, designed to counter the effects of climate change by way of phasing down emissions of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These gases, introduced to replace the ozone-depleting CFCs and HCFCs for which the original Montreal Protocol was drafted, are typically used as coolants in air-conditioning systems. Unfortunately, like their predecessors, they are potent greenhouse gases, whose climate forcing effect per molecule is often many thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.  Continue reading

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How mathematics can fight the abuse of big data algorithms

Prof Alan Champneys,  Professor of Applied Non-linear Mathematics, University of Bristol

Prof Alan Champneys, Professor of Applied Non-linear Mathematics, University of Bristol

“Is maths creating an unfair society?” That seems to be the question on many people’s lips. The rise of big data and the use of algorithms by organisations has left many blaming mathematics for modern society’s ills – refusing people cheap insurance, giving false credit ratings, or even deciding who to interview for a job.

We have been here before. Following the banking crisis of 2008, some argued that it was a mathematical formula that felled Wall Street. The theory goes that the same model that was used to price sub-prime mortgages was used for years to price life assurance policies. Once it was established that dying soon after a loved one (yes, of a broken heart) was a statistical probability, a formula was developed to work out what the increased risk levels were.

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The UK Diet and Diabetes Questionnaire: A new tool for assessing dietary habits

clare_england

Dr Clare England, Senior Research Associate and Specialist Diabetes Dietitian, in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences and the NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle.

Dr Clare England discusses the challenges of providing individualised dietary advice for people with Type 2 diabetes and introduces a new, validated assessment tool, the UKDDQ, that may offer a solution.

Diabetes UK estimates that over 3 million people in the UK are living with Type 2 diabetes, and a further 5 million are at high risk. Complications (for example, increased cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, blindness, foot ulcers and amputations) caused by poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes, costs the NHS an estimated at £7.0 billion.

There is an increasing choice of medication available for Type 2 diabetes which can help to reduce blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure, but a healthy diet, regular physical activity and good weight management underpin successful control.

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Translating research: can domestic violence interventions work in other cultures, systems and languages?

Dr Jayne Bailey, Research Fellow Domestic Violence and Health Research Group, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol

Dr Jayne Bailey, Research Fellow Domestic Violence and Health Research Group, School of Social and Community Medicine,
University of Bristol

Until recently the “translation of research” to many meant language translation for the relevant international audience.

However, in research-speak, there are now several ‘translational gaps’ and it really depends on your pathway of research (ie. early development vs. applied health) as to what this means to you.

Research in the field of domestic violence and health falls within the applied health and social sciences sector and the translational gap we aim to bridge is often the gap between research findings, and implementing research and influencing policy.

However, we should not overlook the translation of research to different languages and cultures and a recent meeting which was part-funded by PolicyBristol explored and reflected on this.

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What impact do mayors have on the cities that elect them?

David Sweeting, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies in the School for Policy Studies

David Sweeting, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies in the School for Policy Studies

Greater Manchester will become the next urban area in the UK to directly elect a mayor, following Bristol who first elected a mayor in 2012. One of the frustrations in the debate around directly elected mayors, however, is the lack of empirical evidence around which to evaluate their impact. Here, David Sweeting presents some early analysis of data from both before and after the introduction of the mayoral system in Bristol.

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Evaluation and research in ‘real world’ policy settings

Professor Elliot Stern, Visiting Professor in School for Policy Studies

In a policy environment besotted with ‘evidence-based policy making’, evaluation is in vogue.  The promise of objective ‘facts, truth, and precision’ sounds like music to a policy maker’s ear. But it is a false promise. The multiple forces at play in the ‘real world’, the multiple lenses through which we can each see that world, and the multiple truths that come to bear on the creation, success and consequences of a given policy must all be constantly borne in mind. There are no easy answers.

At a recent event at the University of Bristol, Elliott Stern, editor of the academic journal ‘Evaluation’ and Matt Baumann, Principal Research Officer at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, explored the value of evaluation in the face of these many challenges.

Despite its many imperfections, evaluation is probably the best tool we have for assessing the impact of a policy intervention in the ‘real world’.

This blog is a summary of their presentations and the discussions that followed.

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Child Sexual Exploitation: Groundhog day

Dr Emma Williamson, Senior Research Fellow, School for Policy Studies

Dr Emma Williamson, Senior Research Fellow, School for Policy Studies

The report into the abuse and sexual exploitation of children and young people in Rotherham[i] whilst shocking, is not a surprise. The report comes in a long line of reports, inquiries, research, and reviews which are consistent in their findings. That victims have been ignored or not believed; that busy professionals have been unable (for a variety of reasons) to respond appropriately; that officials have not adequately prioritised the work of those on the front line; and that existing legislation is not being used even in cases where it could be, to tackle the sexual exploitation of children and young people.

As British actor Samantha Morton made clear in her recent interview, every incident of child sexual abuse is a life sentence for that individual, their families, and those around them.

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