Matchmaking Research To Policy: Introducing Britain’s Areas Of Research Interest Database

Article by Kathryn Oliver: “Areas of research interest (ARIs) were originally recommended in the 2015 Nurse Review, which argued that if government stated what it needed to know more clearly and more regularly, then it would be easier for policy-relevant research to be produced.

During our time in government, myself and Annette Boaz worked to develop these areas of research interest, mobilize experts and produce evidence syntheses and other outputs addressing them, largely in response to the COVID pandemic. As readers of this blog will know, we have learned a lot about what it takes to mobilize evidence – the hard, and often hidden labor of creating and sustaining relationships, being part of transient teams, managing group dynamics, and honing listening and diplomatic skills.

Some of the challenges we encountered include the oft-cited, cultural gap between research and policy, the relevance of evidence, and the difficulty in resourcing knowledge mobilization and evidence synthesis require systemic responses. However, one challenge, the information gap noted by Nurse, between researchers and what government departments actually want to know offered a simpler solution.

Up until September 2023, departmental ARIs were published on gov.uk, in pdf or html format. Although a good start, we felt that having all the ARIs in one searchable database would make them more interactive and accessible. So, working with Overton, we developed the new ARI database. The primary benefit of the database will be to raise awareness of ARIs (through email alerts about new ARIs) and accessibility (by holding all ARIs in one place which is easily searchable)…(More)”.

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