The Alliance for Useful Evidence has joined forces with the Wellcome Trust, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, and the EPPI-Centre at University College London (UCL) to uncover the evidence on what works to enable research use.
This discussion paper gives an introduction to, and discussion of, a project – The Science of Using Science – that reviewed the literature on effective strategies to increase the use of research evidence. The research was undertaken by the EPPI-Centre at UCL.
This paper provides over 30 examples and case studies of successful efforts to increase research uptake. We took a comprehensive approach to reviewing the research. Essentially, it is a ‘review of reviews’, and involved two phases:
- Firstly, a Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews in the more specialist research on the efficacy of interventions to increase the use of research in decision-making. It included 36 systematic reviews that reported on 91 interventions.
- Secondly, a Scoping Review of other social science interventions that might be relevant to the first study. For instance, media and communications; organisational learning and management; psychology and behavioural sciences; adult learning theory; development studies; political sciences; sociology; information design; and climate/environmental science.
Our main priority was whether research was being used, not whether using evidence made a difference on the ground, such as saving lives, or saving money. So, for example, we looked at whether changes like training or mentoring resulted in medics referencing more academic papers in their patient notes. In other words, we looked at more intermediate outcomes, not final outcomes - such as if the patient got better.
The overview of research also concentrated on reviews of primary studies that looked at causal attributions: could the study claim that the change was linked to using more evidence? In the jargon of research design, that may entail studies using Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs), Quasi-Experimental Designs, or Before-and-After studies.