Quite often Research uptake is misunderstood to mean research dissemination or research communication. Dissemination is the distribution of information usually one way while communication is two way but often at the end of the process. Research uptake however is engaging at the outset and often more holistic and involves thinking about a wider group of stakeholder.
To help understand more about Research uptake, Sophie Durrans a Research Uptake Officer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine made a presentation on “Evidence Uptake: where to begin,” at the CIDRZ weekly research meeting.
Sophie’s presentation was aimed at giving an overview on evidence uptake with specific focus on evidence application, policy making process and stakeholder analysis, reaching policymakers and policy briefs
Research uptake can be done by dedicated staff working at the intersection of research and policy, or by researchers themselves who often develop policy expertise.
In policy making, “the term evidence informed decision making/policy making is now preferred to suggest how policy decisions are not made in a vacuum but also that other factors are also important such as political climate, appetite for policy change/evidence use etc. Also the fact that sometimes research findings are considered and rejected in the formulation of a policy it’s still evidence-informed”
Sophie points out that applied evidence leads to new or amended policies, recommendations adopted by implementers, guidelines, resources, toolkits revised reflecting evidence, inclusion on technical working group agenda and other key meetings, changes in levels or focus of funding, changes made to programs or services as well as scale up of interventions and programmes.
“In the policy making process the assumption is that policymakers are receptive to research findings and field evidence but the reality is different. Instead of developing policies based on recommendations, policymakers may ignore them or reject them”.
Sophie the policy making process doesn’t happen by itself but often involves many stakeholders who hold the greatest deal-breaking influence and may not always be those who on paper look most relevant.
She recommends conducting a stakeholder analysis in evidence uptake is very important as the process brings together more ideas, enables buy-in at an early stage, saves time further down the line and helps to work effectively. Further recommendations are understanding of the power and interests of various stakeholders and knowing who keep informed, manage closely, monitor with minimum effort and keep engaged. Develop relationships with policymakers and know how to contact them and Learn about their background, interests and preferences.
“Understand the national level structures and roles relating to your area of work, eg special policy processes or timings (eg. joint sector reviews), relevant teams responsible. The entry points to achieving all this could be through routine meetings such as technical Working Groups, Cyclical events, One-off events, emails, phone calls, face to face and policy briefs”.