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How to Influence Policy with Research

Policy research is aimed at clarifying issues and problems that can then be addressed by changes in social policy. It focuses on using high-quality information to inform decisions that are made about government policies. But influencing policymaking with research is not an easy task. This article will summarise the general guidelines for doing policy research that truly can impact policymakers.

Establish credibility

To begin with, the most important advice for researchers who aim at impacting policies is to provide high-quality and credible research. To be taken into consideration by politicians, researchers need to establish trustworthiness and gain some social recognition. This requires strong methodology, rigorous metrics, and a great understanding of the politics of doing research. The impact of policy research depends on the credibility of the stakeholders involved in the process. Researchers and academic institutions need to build and nurture their relationships with policy actors. Credibility can be hard to get at first because it is a virtuous cycle. The more credible the research is, the more cited/used it is, and the more credible it gets. Policy research sometimes requires joining forces between researchers to increase visibility and maximise the outcomes of the research.

policy research

Be specific

The presentation of research must be tailored depending on the policy issue it covers and the effects it aims to have. The research format will differ whether its objective is to get something on the public agenda or to influence a specific part of the legislation. To truly influence politics, policy research needs to be specific about what to change and target the ones who have the power to implement change. Following these guidelines will help provide pieces of evidence for solving potential flaws in the legislation efficiently. Since policymakers are not always familiar with research papers, scientific jargon should be used carefully. Knowing who has the power to create change is crucial when conducting policy research. To create momentum, research must be clear, well-presented, and quite easy to understand (but not at the expense of accuracy). Key paths and evidence synthesis should be clearly stated.

research policy

Seize the opportunity

Thirdly, policy research needs to be published when it is the most relevant. It needs to catch the interest of the people who are involved in the creation of new legislation. Evidence needs to be presented in a way that resonates with contemporary issues. Depending on the socio-political context (e.g. critical junctures, political regime, public mood, media narratives, etc.), some issues might become more urgent and/or receive more public attention than others. This phenomenon is called ‘windows of opportunity’. Policy research is more likely to influence policymakers when they are already motivated to solve a specific issue. Thus, policy research is highly impacted by wider contextual trends and requires a holistic understanding of society.

Values research for better policies

At Glocalities, we specialize in values-based research around the globe. Since late 2013, we have conducted research in at least 56 countries on all continents. We have developed a unique methodology that helps organizations fully understand citizens’ outlook on life, concerns, lifestyle, and priorities. Thanks to our broad range of tools available, we offer a 360-degree view of society about current ‘hot’ topics that occupy a prominent position in the policy agenda. Think of climate change, security concerns, but also societal trends, and the rise of Generation Z. This generation is set to shape the world in the decades to come. In fact, we recently published a report about the cultural revolution taking place worldwide.

Glocalities proudly collaborates with some of the most influential organizations out there and we are always delighted to share our expertise with the world. You can find out more about our work here. Better policies in the future start with ‘taking the pulse’ of society to know what really drives people at a certain point in life. Glocalities can help fill this gap.

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