20 September 2011

How to Increase the Policy Impact of Academic Research

How about letting policy makers read it?
"academics, funded mostly by the public purse, pay for the production and dissemination of academic papers; but for historical reasons, these are published by private organisations who charge around $30 per academic paper, keeping out any reader who doesn’t have access through their institution."(Goldacre, on Monbiot)
It's hard to judge exactly how many people are likely to be affected, but I would bet that there are thousands of people out there who are able to read research, who work in some kind of operational decision-making role, and who might, on occasion, want to do a quick google search and skim the latest relevant academic paper on an issue.

Policy notes and summaries produced by think tanks are fine, but they are costly to produce, and rarely answer the precise specific question that a decision-maker is looking at. There is a parallel here to Owen Barder's arguments about aid transparency - information should be first be made free at source, and we can worry about analysis and presentation later (or rather the market, and enthusiastic amateurs, can).

Even in large institutions it can be difficult - the British Department for Work and Pensions is the largest employer of professional economists in the country - and it does pay for some kind of access, but I do remember it being not quite as easy as from within a university, and wasting time looking for things. Good luck being a US-educated returnee to the civil service in South Sudan.


Post a Comment