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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How to: Engage with Parliament

Stephen Halsey, PolicyBristol Intern and Assistant Teacher, School of Economics, Finance and Management

Stephen Halsey, PolicyBristol Intern and Assistant Teacher, School of Economics, Finance and Management

How can research influence government and the policy making process? What are the best ways to engage with Parliament? As part of PolicyBristol’s training programme, a couple of weeks ago we hosted an event to address these vital questions. We welcomed speakers from the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and the Education Select Committee as well as one of our own academics with a depth of experience in engaging with parliamentary processes. Speakers were:

  • Liz Price, Regional Officer – Wales and SW England, Parliament’s Outreach ServiceSarah Bunn, Scientific Adviser, Biology and Health, POST
  • Sarah Bunn, Scientific Adviser, Biology and Health, POST
  • Martin Smith, Committee Specialist, Commons Education Select Committee
  • David Berridge, Professor of Child & Family Welfare, School for Policy Studies

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The concept of critical impact – reflections on a workshop

Dr Eric Herring, Reader in International Politics, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Dr Eric Herring, Research and Impact Director, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

How can international relations (IR) and security scholars have ‘critical impact’ in transforming unjust social relations and social practices? And what role does engagement with the Research Excellence Framework (REF) ‘impact agenda’ have in this?

The upcoming REF and the expectation that REF2020 will have a significantly larger impact component have created intense interest in the impact agenda. This issue is not specific to academia: after all, it relates centrally and explicitly to academia’s role in the wider world. The context for this agenda is one of vast global ferment: financial crisis, climate change, increasing inequalities, population growth and urbanisation, various forms of armed conflict, rapid technological advances and burgeoning social movements.

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Getting research through the doors of Westminster

Dr Pauline Heslop, Norah Fry Research Centre, School for Policy Studies

Dr Pauline Heslop, Norah Fry Research Centre, School for Policy Studies

Telling acquaintances that you are part of a team reviewing the deaths of people with learning disabilities can stop a conversation in its tracks. Most people glaze over, make excuses and beat a hasty retreat. So how could we encourage the Government to listen to, and commit to addressing the issues?

The Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CI) was commissioned by the Department of Health as a three-year project to assess the extent of premature deaths in people with learning disabilities and offer guidance on prevention. In March 2013 we reported our findings to the Department of Health and shared them nationally through a series of media interviews, public conferences and events. We also engaged with Parliament in a number of ways – including giving evidence at a House of Lords Select Committee, addressing an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting, and briefing peers for a debate in the House of Lords.

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Education spending, pupil attainment and causality

Professor of Economics Director of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation

Simon Burgess, Professor of Economics &
Director of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation

In these hard times, spending government money effectively is more important than ever. Last week Fraser Nelson challenged the effectiveness of spending in schools, one of the areas relatively protected from Coalition cuts. He said: “The biggest surprise, though, was the money: no matter how you split the figures, the amount spent didn’t seem to make the blindest bit of difference”, his reading of a report by Deloitte commissioned by the Department for Education.

What is the evidence? In fact, it is surprisingly difficult to establish the impact of spending more money on student achievement. This is partly due to shortage of data (researchers always want more data), but there is a more fundamental reason too. Continue reading

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