An experiment in opening up policy making To support giving policy makers access to a broader range of research findings, a speed dating event was held in December in the Cabinet Office to bring together civil servants and researchers from the Arts and Humanities.
Co-organised with Professor Keri Facer, University of Bristol and AHRC Leadership Fellow for Connected Communities Programme and Hannah Rutter, Senior Policy Adviser in the Cabinet Office, this event was an experiment both in its content - to see if such research could be of value to policy makers - and its format – to see what modes of engagement could work between professionals working in different kinds of context and in relation to different time frames.
In designing this event, we saw it as a two-way exchange – bringing Arts and Humanities research to the attention of policy officials and bringing the needs of policy officials to the attention of academics.
One strand of the Open Policy Making agenda is about using a broader range of evidence to inform policy.
For example the What Works centres were set up to enable policy officials to access research and make use of it for better decision making.
In the policy context, economic and social research is well established.
As a recent book about the impact of social sciences indicated, research from the social sciences is now closely tied up with research in the sciences and technology.
In contrast Arts and Humanities research is less visible and familiar to policy officials although there are various pockets of interactions between researchers within these traditions and civil servants (such as these examples).
Arts and humanities research covers about 50 fields from media and communication to history, literature to curating, design to theatre.Generally arts and humanities research receives less public funding than other areas.For example, the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s budget is £98 million in 2015-16 but many researchers participate in projects with scientists, engineers, medical researchers and other academics.Government websites present documents for consultation, or names of senior civil servants, or short summaries of policies.But typically it is not easy for people with research findings, proposals or methodologies who are not already connected to government to identify potential collaborators or “users” for research inside policy contexts.Using a speed-dating format, we designed a two-hour event that gave policy officials and researchers seven opportunities to meet, each lasting six minutes each.