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Rob Davies

04 November 2022, 2:01 UTC Share

Enter the dragon: Senedd committees Areas of Research Interest pilot project

In September, two Senedd committees launched the Senedd’s first Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) as a new way to improve committees’ engagement with the research community. ARI topics include climate change, modal shift and active travel, sustainable communities, and health literacy. In this blog Rob Davies, CAPE Policy Fellow, outlines how researchers can engage with the ARIs and how they aim to support parliamentary scrutiny.

The Senedd’s knowledge exchange strategy 2021-26 aims to broaden, deepen, and diversify the evidence available to the Senedd to enhance its scrutiny function. One of the ways it proposes to do this is through the use of ‘Areas of Research Interest’ (ARIs) to strategically plan engagements and focus resources around the research demands of Members and committees.

The idea of using ARIs to improve the use of and diversify evidence in parliaments was first suggested by the UK Parliament’s 2017-19 Liaison Committee in its inquiry into committee effectiveness:

“We recommend that the Committee Office facilitates, with Research and Information, including the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), the creation of documented and published “Areas of Interest” in the same way that government departments now do.”

UK Parliament committees piloted the use of ARIs from February 2021 to July 2022, with the assistance of a House of Commons Scrutiny Unit Policy Fellow funded by the CAPE project, to better understand and assess how they can support parliamentary scrutiny. The response from the research community significantly diversified the evidence received, helped to fill knowledge gaps and shape committees’ thinking, determine the best inquiries to take forward, and identify witnesses.

The Senedd ARIs pilot project builds on the experience of UK Parliament committees. They aim to identify longer-term cross-subject areas of interest to Members and committees that may not be on the immediate agenda, fill gaps in evidence and knowledge, and open the door for new and diverse sources of evidence and expertise to feed into the scrutiny process.

The Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee ARIs are on behaviour change in response to climate changemodal shift and active travel, and sustainable communities. The Health and Social Care Committee’s ARI is on health literacy.

The Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee is interested in exploring:

  • the policy interventions that are available to governments to stimulate behaviour change, particularly in the context of the devolved powers of the Welsh Government.
  • behaviour change in relation to modal shift and active travel and the triggers for behaviour change in different areas across Wales, including in rural and urban areas, and the related policy interventions that are available to the Welsh Government and other public bodies.
  • how the Welsh Government policy interventions in transport, planning, and infrastructure can be used to deliver better connectivity and transport opportunities, create homes that are low carbon, affordable, and accessible to local communities; and develop green skills and local green jobs.

The Health and Social’s Care Committee’s health literacy ARI is about an individual’s ability to find, understand, and act on health information, to know which health services to use, when to use them, and to be active partners in their care. The Committee is also interested in understanding more about how relevant organisations meet those needs, enabling individuals to access, understand and use health information and services.

Academics and researchers with evidence or insights on the ARIs (including evidence reviews) can register their interest in the ARIs, add their existing research in the topic areas to the ARIs repository, provide their insights, and suggest questions that the Committee could ask the Welsh Government.

Russell George MS, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee said:

“Areas of Research Interest add another tool to the Committee’s kit to engage with different groups of stakeholders. Researchers and academics provide us with vital evidence and expertise to support committee scrutiny, and the Areas of Research Interest will help us identify key issues, research, and expert witnesses to solve the longer term issues facing Wales.”

Llyr Gruffydd MS, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee said:

“The nature of our Committee’s work is complex and long term; this means we must take many different approaches to collecting evidence and expertise. Areas of Research Interest are a tried and tested way of engaging with the research community and tapping into new and future research. They will help us to make sure that our scrutiny choices and our law-making is informed by the best possible research evidence and expertise, alongside our other stakeholder groups.”

Further information:

Welsh Parliament Areas of Research Interest

Welsh Parliament Knowledge Exchange Strategy

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