Concurrent with the changing nature of environmental policymaking is a recognition that there needs to be a more fluid interface between research and policy: it is a source of considerable frustration to both researchers and policymakers that sound science, presented clearly, does not always have the desired effect on policy processes. The rise of knowledge brokering, first detailed in the health policy arena (see www.chsrf.ca) is being suggested as a possible solution to this problem.
But what does a knowledge brokering approach look like within the policy environment? How does it differ from traditional approaches to managing the evidence base for policy, and from research-instigated efforts to broker knowledge into policy? Are any specific tools and techniques needed and if so, how can we decide whether or not they are a cost-effective improvement? This project will address these overarching questions to assess whether, and how, it is possible to implement a knowledge brokering approach in an area of policy that is characterised by its potentially vast scope, many unknowns, complexity and cross-cutting nature.
The project is designed to bring together the past four years' work on evidence-based policymaking and knowledge brokering in Defra, presenting the results in a modular report for easy dissemination. The aim of the project is to begin to move discussion forward from 'evidence-based policymaking' towards 'using the best available knowledge for policy' and to understand the implications of doing so. It will explore what this means in the context of:
• identifying evidence & evidence needs in relation to current SCP policy goals rather than research programme goals;
providing & disseminating evidence in a format, and through channels, that are useful to policy makers;
• taking account of wider stakeholder needs and describing & managing conflicting interpretations of the evidence around an issue;
• proposing a system for knowledge management which makes the most of existing evidence & prioritises new work to ensure maximum value from a limited budget;
• helping maximise linkages to OGDs, EU, international and other evidence sources, including the evidence bases held elsewhere in Defra (Natural Environment Group, Climate Change Group) and in OGDs;
• helping manage the issues of high staff turnover in a complex and cross-cutting policy environment, by ensuring that knowledge is easily retrieved, tracked and updated and that processes are aligned with Defra's Renew Programme;
• sorting through the different routes by which SCP-related evidence could be commissioned, enabling shared evidence bases to be more effectively managed by either the SCP evidence team, the central knowledge hub, or external contractors;
• proposing techniques and approaches to 'pull' the evidence through the Department to senior management levels, encouraging senior management to take an active role in managing the evidence base for SCP policy.
The specific objectives of the knowledge brokering project are:
• to capture and summarise all the learning around the SCP evidence base over the past three years, paying particular attention to understanding what is meant by taking a ‘knowledge brokering’ approach to SCP evidence base development and how it differs from traditional approaches to managing the evidence base for policy
• to summarise the current situation, focusing on the cost-effectiveness of current techniques for managing the evidence base (in Defra and elsewhere)
• and, to identify future challenges and opportunities to embedding a knowledge brokering approach in Defra; analysing the possible allocation of responsibility between the SCP evidence base team, the central knowledge hub, and external contractors