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  • 00:13

    Thank you, Naomi Jones, for sparing some timeto talk to us today.I wanted to ask you how I might go about designingpolicy-focused research.Well, that's an excellent question.Policy-focused research can be designed, I think,with several questions in mind.Firstly, what is it that you're trying to achieve?

  • 00:36

    What are the questions that you want to answer?Who are the audiences that you want to reach?What kind of policy makers do you want to influenceand how do you want them to be influenced?What are they likely to do with the researchthat you've produced?How are they going to use it?How are they going to translate it into policy?I think all these questions need to be answered before youstart designing any research.

  • 00:57

    It's quite common, in my experience,that people get very stuck into designing a methodologyand deciding how they're going to approacha particular piece of research before asking whatthe purpose of the research is.So that's the really crucial thing,first off, is to ask yourself what is itthat I want this to achieve.And then set it out, designing somethingthat can achieve that, realisticallyand pragmatically.

  • 01:19

    Very good.And typically what do people want to achieveby policy-focused research?What are the range of questions that are likely to be asked?Well, the fantastic thing about researchis that, in the UK in particular,it has such a role in building an evidence base thatallows policy makers to really transparently showhow they're using public money.

  • 01:42

    So the pinnacle of good policy makingis to say, well, let's take a range of evidence,some of which would hopefully need more research,and understand how it is that we can shape policies,answer questions based on this evidence.So I suppose the classic example that wewould use at the National Centre for Social Research isevaluation where we are evaluatinghow a particular piece of policy is working.

  • 02:08

    So the government might set up a program directedat, I don't know, young people for example,and alongside that program would bea piece of research to evaluate how well it's actuallyworking in practice.Now, that would serve several purposes.On the one hand, it acts as a transparency tool.It shows where the public money isgoing into that particular policy initiative.

  • 02:30

    But also, depending on how it's evaluated,the research that we do can throw backquestions about how it's working and help those policy makers,then, to reform the policy and reshape it and develop itover time so that it becomes more and more targeted.What about, perhaps, the criticism that this is naiveand that, in fact, rather than having evidence-based policywe have policy-based evidence?

  • 02:54

    Well, I think that's-- I can understand where that criticismmight come from.The challenge and the reason, I think,that sometimes comes to light is because there's a translationjob to be done between where researchers go outand get public views and turn that into researchand then translate it into policy speak.

  • 03:17

    So things do have to sort of be changed.We do that as research organizations.We go out and say, tell us what you're thinking, public.Tell us what you think of a piece of policy.Tell us what you need.And then we translate that into a languagethat policy makers can understand.And I think that translation is really importantbut can sometimes be misinterpretedas reshaping evidence to suit policyrather than actually drawing on hard, rigorous evidence-- whichit is and should be.

  • 03:45

    And it's also about how that translationis done so that evidence can be used in policy.Because research is by definition very nuanced,public opinions are very nuanced, and oftenwhat policy makers want to work with, the kind of cold,hard facts, the kind of headline findingsthat easily, snappily put it into kind of white papersor other kind of papers that might support policy.

  • 04:09

    And so we've got a translation jobto do as researchers that takes that nuanceand uses it, but turns it into somethingthat policy makers can understand and use and draw on.And that's where the real challenge is.And I can understand where the criticism can sometimescome from, but it does work and policymakers do draw on evidence an awful lot of the time.How do we evaluate big policy?

  • 04:31

    I mean, if we're talking about something like educationpolicy, which may be changed by one governmentto another, that's an enormous thing to evaluate.What are your criteria for evaluating that?Well, I think the key thing is to be cutting itdown into bite-sized chunks.So we wouldn't evaluate education policy as a whole.

  • 04:52

    We'd evaluate one section of that policy.So, for example, the government recentlystarted rolling out free school meals program, the pilot.That's something that National Centre for Social Researchis evaluating.So we're looking at how that's working in practice, whatdoes it mean to those children that are receiving free schoolmeals, what does it mean to the parents,and what it means in reality.

  • 05:15

    I think to do a good evaluation isto bring together a range of methodsand to triangulate those methods.So qualitative methods, quantitative methods,looking at the views of lots of differentstakeholders any programs.So an education program might have teachers, parents,pupils involved.Also a range of other stakeholders, includingpeople in the government.And a good evaluation should be getting the viewsand perspectives from all of those peopleand triangulating them, and bringing them togetherinto central messages that the policy makers can then use.

  • 05:45

    And what sort of evidence, then, do policy makers like to use?Well, as I say, policy makers liketo use evidence that they can very quickly lift out and putinto short briefing papers for ministersor that have hard kind of impact facts in them.So that's quite often statistical evidence,[INAUDIBLE] surveys for example.

  • 06:06

    And it can be a real challenge because although that evidenceis often available, as I say, public perceptions and viewsare often very nuanced in a way that policy can't alwaysafford to be.So there's a bit of a tension there.But more and more, I've found, policy makersare welcoming the more holistic typeof evidence that applied research can produce,including that produced by qualitative research, whichdraws on people's kind of experiences and attitudes.

  • 06:35

    And it's just about how you present thatand being very careful not to get boggeddown in the detail of the methodology that you've used,but drawing out findings.And what policy makers really want as much as the evidenceis some interpretation.So presenting the findings isn't enough on its own.What you really need to do is say,right, this is what we think the evidence meansfor this particular piece of policyand here's why we think it means that,so that you're helping them develop the next phaseand working with them.

  • 07:03

    And the best synthesis of policy and researchis where the two come together and work togetherand say, right, here's the evidence.Here's what we need to achieve, here'show perhaps if we work forward together, drawing allwe know from the data.And again, Naomi Jones.Thank you very much.Thank you.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2011

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Policy research, Research design

Keywords: criticism and critics; government; policy analysis; reform; transparency

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Naomi Jones discusses policy-focused research and what this type of research sets out to achieve. Policy-focused research evaluates a particular piece of policy to provide transparency and help with reform.

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How do I design policy focused research?

Naomi Jones discusses policy-focused research and what this type of research sets out to achieve. Policy-focused research evaluates a particular piece of policy to provide transparency and help with reform.

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