Policy briefs are a common tool employed by international development agencies, research institutes and other intermediaries to disseminate research, but the policy impact of policy briefs is unknown. In this article, we summarise the results of an experiment directed to test the impact of a policy brief on readers’ knowledge and attitudes. It is well recognised that welfare programmes should be rigorously evaluated in order to prove what works, but the evidence on the benefits of an evidence-based approach to policy-making is thin.
Our study is concerned with the very first step of the rational model of the research–policy link: policy-makers need to read and understand the evidence produced by research and change their beliefs accordingly after reading if they are to change their current policies and practices. Dissemination tools are designed to achieve this goal and are widely used, but their actual impact on people’s perceptions and attitudes are unknown.