There are calls for policymakers to make greater use of research when formulating policies. Therefore, it is important that policy organisations have a range of tools and systems to support their staff in using research in their work. The aim of the present study was to measure the extent to which a range of tools and systems to support research use were available within six Australian agencies with a role in health policy, and examine whether this was related to the extent of engagement with, and use of research in policymaking by their staff.
The presence of relevant systems and tools was assessed via a structured interview called ORACLe which is conducted with a senior executive from the agency. To measure research use, four policymakers from each agency undertook a structured interview called SAGE, which assesses and scores the extent to which policymakers engaged with (i.e., searched for, appraised, and generated) research, and used research in the development of a specific policy document.
The results showed that all agencies had at least a moderate range of tools and systems in place, in particular policy development processes; resources to access and use research (such as journals, databases, libraries, and access to research experts); processes to generate new research; and mechanisms to establish relationships with researchers. Agencies were less likely, however, to provide research training for staff and leaders, or to have evidence-based processes for evaluating existing policies.
For the majority of agencies, the availability of tools and systems was related to the extent to which policymakers engaged with, and used research when developing policy documents. However, some agencies did not display this relationship, suggesting that other factors, namely the organisation's culture towards research use, must also be considered.