Connecting research to policy is complex, unpredictable and time consuming – so should we expect academics to do it on their own? #LSE

An Economic Definition of Value - Rockbridge

By: Jenny Bird

Earlier in the year the chief executive of UKRI, Dame Ottoline Leyser, argued that a research culture that prizes the figure of the ‘lone genius’ has stifled productive collaboration. Drawing on the experience of UCL’s Faculty of Engineering Sciences Policy Impact UnitJenny Bird discusses five reasons that can make it difficult for individual academics to engage in the policymaking process and suggests that dedicated policy units present an important mechanism for supporting both learning about and increasing the impact of academic research on policy.


While there is a broad consensus among the policy studies community about what makes for effective policy engagement, studies have also shown that these insights are rarely drawn upon by funders and researchers seeking to influence change.

But there is less in the literature about why this is the case. What stops researchers from providing clear, relevant and reliable research evidence at the right time and in the right way? And why is it so hard for many researchers to build up lasting relationships with policymakers?

Two years ago, UCL’s Faculty of Engineering Sciences established a Policy Impact Unit to collaborate with researchers and help improve policy engagement activities.  Here is what we have learned from our experience so far about the barriers that stop academics from putting advice in to practice.

Effective engagement requires more than generic communication: specialist knowledge and skills are needed.

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