When most people think about research use, they think about a linear process where research evidence informs decision-making directly. However, there is growing recognition that research use is a complex social process consisting of several multi-directional elements. A further insight is that research evidence can ‘inform’ policy and practice in many different ways. It can be used in everyday practice alongside other forms of knowledge, such as that from professional or personal experience. It can be used directly to inform policy and/or practice, where it is seen as having a direct, instrumental influence on behaviour change. In addition, it is understood that there are indirect, more conceptual or enlightened, uses of research in shaping knowledge, understanding and attitudes. There is also the crucial issue of how users of research are engaged in informing the setting of research agendas and approaches to research. Although not exhaustive, an overview of the different types of research use is shown below:
The EPPI Centre is interested in all types of research use. It is involved in the following areas:
Access to syntheses of research evidence
Reviews published by the EPPI Centre are freely available through our Evidence Library. When conducting or supporting the conduct of reviews, we invite outsiders to focus our efforts, in order to make the reviews relevant to those asking the review questions, those well placed to make use of the findings, and those whose lives may be affected by any subsequent decisions.
Guidance on research use
As part of our commitment to capacity building activities to help ensure that those who want and need research can find, understand and use it effectively, we have produced a number of introductory guides for postgraduate researchers and academic staff to assist understanding of terms such as ‘research impact’ and ‘knowledge exchange’ and the key issues within them.
Supporting research use
Building on our coordination of two European Commission funded projects in this area, our work includes supporting those who wish to use research by providing direct support services. We currently offer a Research Advisory Service (RSA) to enable users of research to consider whether research might be helpful to their decision making, and, if so, in what way and what type of research would meet that need.
Studying research use
A growing area of interest is the study of research use in policy and practice, including the processes, structures and systems (both formal and informal) that shape this use. We believe that research can assist decision making; in which case, how best to do this is itself an important research question. We need to be ‘evidence informed’ about how we use research evidence! Our work in this area develops further the work undertaken in the European Commission funded ‘Evidence Informed Policy and Practice in Education in Europe’ (EIPPEE) project.