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Exchange forum between researchers and policy makers
London
26 giugno 2009
 

1. How was the interaction between policymakers and researchers?

The interaction was from the very beginning very positive. This was helped by the fact that some policymakers were both part of policy making institution and research groups, others were academics who have been previously working in government bodies and major policy institutes. Some were also undertaking evaluation of social science research for the European Commission or giving expert opinions to government inquiries. So the roles were more blurred. 

The kick off presentation on “The use of research in policy-making” by Dr. Heaven Crawley, Centre for Migration Policy Researcher, Swansea University, generated a lively debate. The presentation highlighted the increased emphasis over the past decade on the importance of evidence-based policy making and the increase in government-funded research in areas such as crime and immigration. She highlighted the complexity of the factors shaping policy making, including the involvement of NGOs, pressure groups and the media.

The participants discussed how knowledge in relation to immigration processes is shaped by the political context within which it is constituted which has important implications for the ways in which questions (including research questions) are framed, the kinds of information that are viewed as being of relevance, and decisions about what ‘counts’ as evidence for the purposes of policy making. Compared to the previous workshop among researchers and NGOs, one element that has emerged is that while civil society organizations tend to advocate on specific issues (e.g. refugee, trafficked women, domestic workers), policymakers are much more versatile and tend to be easily moved from one department or specialism to the other. High turnover, limited time scales and changing political priorities are other elements that shape policy makers requests to researchers.  

2. Which aspects of the presented research results have been more appreciated by the policymakers?

Policymakers were very interested in all the EU projects presented during the workshop, also because they don’t have access to academic journals and the great amount of research project and reports makes it very difficult to do mapping exercises in a short span of time. The first presentation on “The use of research in policy-making” was much appreciated since it dealt directly with the aim of the workshop. Policymakers also expressed their appreciation for the short and concise policy briefs produced by the Gemma project since they are similar to executive summaries. 

3. Which directions did the policymakers indicate for the research in the future?

Policymakers highlighted the need to do more research on older migrant women, how they fare when they get older and what happens to migrants who did not earn enough to get their pensions. But more than indicating future research directions, policymakers highlighted several elements that need to be improved in order to better communicate the results of research projects and increase their impact on policymaking. Attention is more likely to be paid to research findings when the research is timely, the evidence is clear and relevant, and the methodology is relatively uncontested. This raises specific concerns, since in recent years research on immigration has proliferated in different disciplines and produced different and sometimes contradictory research findings, thus creating a competition over which expertise is relevant. Furthermore, it was highlighted how research findings need strong advocates: the use of research in policy making is rarely direct and knowledge is mediated by think-tanks, lobbyists and advocates, the media. The impact of research finding is likely to increase if research users are partners in the generation of evidence and the results are robust in implementation. Policymakers highlighted the need for very clear and practical policy recommendation.

4. What was the reaction of researchers to the suggestions made by policymakers?

Researchers welcomed the request of policymakers. However researchers highlighted that although policymakers require very practical policy recommendations such as language courses for specific migrant groups, issues to be addressed are often much broader (e.g. structural inequalities). In addition, academics expressed the idea that policy recommendations will be accepted only if policymakers are already in that direction. High turnover of policy makers is another element which makes it difficult to build long lasting and productive relationships with academics. Researchers also highlighted the different research requests depending on which policymaking level one is trying to reach, ie. the local, the national or the European/international. Each of them has specific targets and need to be targeted differently. For instance, often research funded by European Commission has no interest at a local level. 

Researchers also felt that too much attention and commissioned research was concerned with extreme cases and situations eg. forced marriage, sex trafficking or domestic violence ie. those in dire straits. More should be directed towards the majority of migrant women.

5. Have some collaboration plans emerged for the future between policymakers and researchers?

In the UK, there is quite a lot of collaboration in relation to migrants and refugees, for example with regional organisations, equality bodies and local authorities, amongst those who attended. Discussion focussed more on issues and problems of how research was transferred into policy making than specific priorities or collaboration. Researchers learnt much more about the context in which policy making occurs at different levels (national and local). The point was made that policy priorities may be determined at European and national levels, but implemented at local and regional levels.


Documents:


[Agenda]

[Documents]

[Recommendations for improving coordination between Research and Policy]

[Gender & Migration in United Kingdom: a brief overview]