Researchers and students from The University of Queensland (UQ) interested in social policy attended a seminar on October 17 entitled, Are policy-makers interested in academic social research?

The seminar presented by Professor Brian Head, the Policy Analysis Program Leader at the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), discussed the outcomes of an Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grant of 2010-13 that had nine public sector industry partners and involved a further twelve collaborating agencies .

Associate Professor Paul Henman from the UQ Social Policy Unit brought his postgraduate students group from the course, “Doing Social Policy”, which he coordinates.

“The students are learning about policy processes and how to be involved.  Understanding the role of research and evidence in policy processes is important in order to demonstrate that policy making is not solely political and neither is it solely evidence driven,” he said.

It’s important for students, says Associate Professor Henman, as future policy advocates, to know how better to advocate for policy change both within and outside of government.

The project led by Professors Head, Paul Boreham and Dr Adrian Cherney, included a large-scale survey of 2084 Australian public servants at state and federal levels.

The survey results indicate that 70 percent of public servants felt that academic research results are considered relevant by their workplace colleagues and that 70 percent consider university researchers to be an important source of information. And 84 percent of respondents agreed that research is important in their professional field.

Professor Head said that relationships between academic researchers and the public sector are important for policy uptake, but it is clear from the public service responses that we need to find better ways of informing and influencing the public sector agencies.

“The academics argue that policy makers ignore their research and the policy officials often say that academic research is poorly written or poorly targeted or not directly relevant to the needs of the day and not helping them do their job better,” he said.

“The research sector is only part of the policy process – it can contribute, but the expertise coming from think- tanks, from the public service, from professional managers who run organisations, administerial advisors and political judgements, are all fundamental and enduring aspects of the policy process,” Professor Head said.

The study showed that only 22 percent of respondents felt that they always or usually received academic research that is relevant to their work and only 16 percent felt that university research results have regularly influenced changes in policies developed by their unit.

Professor Head said it was difficult for social scientists to engage in research translation and knowledge brokering, but there have been advances in this area internationally.

“We need to take the broader social mission very seriously and we do that through better engagement,” he said.

See the story on the upcoming symposium at UQ on Evidence-Based Policymaking and the event listing.

Caption: Associate Professor Henman and Professor Head at centre and (from left) the tutorial group from  the “Doing Social Policy” course: Tingting Chen, Nguyen Quang Dong, Grenata Louhenapessy, Listyarti Palupi, Terry Vo, Paul, Brian, Gabriela Martinez Herrera, Carla Martinez Pavez, Andrew Karpenko and Kate Green.

News & Events Category: 
13 November 2013