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Caroline Wood

25 August 2023, 8:06 UTC Share

Communicating evidence to policy makers – how can we know what works best?

We all know that policy making should be supported by accurate, up-to-date, and credible evidence. But how can we ensure that this information is seen by decision-makers, and that policy workers can easily understand it? My new research project aims to help those who communicate evidence to write more effectively for policy makers – and you can be involved.

The decisions made by policy makers have a great impact on our societies and daily lives – from funding health and social care, to fighting climate change and pollution. Ideally, all new policies and legislation should be informed by the best-available evidence and research. But very little is known about the sources of information that policy makers use to access evidence on topical issues. 

This makes it difficult for those attempting to communicate information to policy makers to focus on the channels that are most likely to be noticed. Often, organisations whose work has a policy relevance (such as charities and universities) may only have limited resources for policy engagement. This makes it critically important to be as strategic as possible. But there is currently little information to guide communications professionals who may have to make decisions such as whether to focus on communicating information using a website blog, LinkedIn article, Twitter/X campaign, etc.

At the same time, all too often evidence is not communicated in a way that best meets the needs of policy makers. Information may be full of technical jargon that non-specialists do not understand; a report might be several pages long with no executive summary; outputs may be focused on academic communities and ignore the relevance to wider society, and so on.

How can we address these challenges? I propose a publicly-accessible ‘best practice guide’ for evidence communicators, informed by insights on how policy makers actually use evidence.

This is the focus of my newly-launched research project – Communicating evidence to policy makers – what works best? This will investigate the sources of information that are most useful for policy makers and why this is. 

To generate robust, quantitative data, I have developed a short online survey for policy makers which asks which sources of evidence they use and why. In this sense, ‘policy makers’ includes MPs, Lords, their advisory staff, Parliamentary Committee and Government Department staff, devolved administrations, and the wider Civil Service.

For the data to be representative, I am looking for as many people as possible to take part – and I need your help!

How you can be involved:

If you are a policy maker:

Please complete the survey! And please share it with your colleagues, for instance by posting on LinkedIn or forwarding the link in an email.

As a bonus, everyone who completes the survey will have the opportunity to win one of three £100 vouchers, or £100 to be donated to a charity of their choice.

I am also looking for individuals who would be willing to be featured in a case study (this can be anonymous). This would involve a call where I would ask you a series of questions on which sources of evidence you use any why. If you would be interested in this, please get in touch with me: 

If your role involves communicating information and evidence:

Hopefully, the results of this work will be highly useful for your role. You can help by raising awareness of the survey and by forwarding it to any contacts you have in policy roles.

Thank you for your support! The survey will remain open until the end of September, and I hope to share the findings from the project by late November.

Dr Caroline Wood, University of Oxford

The work has been funded by a grant from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

Link to the survey:  

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