University of Sussex
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What factors affect the adoption of research within educational policy making? How might a better understanding of these factors improve research adoption and aid the development of policy?

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:18 authored by Christopher David Brown
This study addresses two questions: 'What factors affect the adoption of research within educational policy making?' and 'How might a better understanding of these factors improve research adoption and aid the development of policy?' In investigating the concept of research adoption, which I regard as vital to the successful creation of ‘evidence-informed’ policies/policy instruments, it is hoped that the study’s conclusions will assist researchers seeking to influence policy development, whilst also aiding policy-makers who wish to inform their policies with evidence. I begin the study by critically engaging with the concept of evidence-informed policy making. I then shift my focus to the theoretical field of knowledge transfer/exchange. The assumptions that subsequently emerge from this engagement and which form the conceptual basis of the thesis are that: evidence-informed policy is dependent on the prior adoption of research by policy-makers, and; that adoption itself depends both upon effective communication by research ‘suppliers’ and effective reception on the part of research audiences. Building on these assumptions, I then establish the individual factors that are considered to be vital in facilitating the research adoption process. These adoption factors are afforded further explanatory power through their combination with the theoretical framework I have employed for the thesis; Social Activity Method (SAM). In brief, SAM argues that the social world comprises people undertaking actions that lead to them building, maintaining or destroying relationships with one another. For this study, I regard research adoption as the establishment of a successful relationship between policy-makers and researchers. Consequently, the processes involved in the communication of research are seen to represent the actions employed by researchers in order to establish such a relationship; these can be juxtaposed against the research reception (or audience) actions displayed by policymakers. Combining these research adoption factors together with SAM enables me to construct a new model of research adoption which, I propose, provides a more nuanced and effective way of explaining how and why research might be adopted than existing work in this area. In summary, the model promotes the idea that adoption will depend on sociological uestions: is the researcher privileged by the policy-maker in question? is the area of study situated within a wider corpus of knowledge? The answers to these questions affect the specific adoption ‘scenario’ faced by researchers and policymakers and, consequently, the nature and type of any factors affecting research adoption which researchers and policy-makers will need to develop strategies to overcome. The primary methodology I employ is that of the in-depth, semi-structured interview. To inform these interviews, key issues from the literature review were identified and rhetorical analysis also utilised. As a result of undertaking 24 interviews with researchers, policy-makers and other knowledge providers within the education sector in England, I identify four key research adoption strategies that could be used by academic researchers to improve the knowledge adoption process. These are: the creation of ‘policy ready’ outputs (designed to increase demand for a given study by improving understanding of how its findings might be applied or utilised); traditional outputs (which serve to enhance perceptions of the study’s quality and rigour); promotional strategies (which relate to the way research is disseminated, both in terms of its communication and in terms of the techniques or modes employed), and; ‘contextual’ strategies (which attempt to improve the reputation of the researcher or the social robustness of the idea to which their research pertains). At the same time I critically examine the assumptions which underlie why these strategies are regarded as key and outline how inequalities in power relations between policy-makers and researchers might be redressed.


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  • doctoral

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University of Sussex

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