Beware the well-intentioned advice of unusually successful academics
There is a wealth of advice and ‘how to’ guides available to academics on the subject of how research can have an impact on policy and practice. In this post, Kathryn Oliver and Paul Cairney assess the value of this literature, arguing that unless researchers seek to situate research impact within processes of policymaking and academic knowledge production, this advice can ultimately reinforce current inequalities in research impact.
Many academics want to see their research have an impact on policy and practice, and there is a lot of advice on how to seek it. It can be helpful to take advice from experienced and successful people. However, is this always the best advice? Guidance based on best practice and success stories in particular, often reflect unequal access to policymakers, institutional support, and credibility attached to certain personal characteristics.
To take stock of the vast amount of advice being offered to academics, we decided to compare it with the more systematic analyses available in the peer-reviewed literature, on the ‘barriers’ between evidence and policy, and policy studies. This allowed us to situate this advice in a wider context, see whether it was generalisable across settings and career stages, and to think through the inconsistencies and dilemmas which underlie these suggestions.