What shapes research impact on policy? Understanding research uptake in sexual and reproductive health policy processes in resource poor contexts

Published on 1 January 2011

Assessing the impact that research evidence has on policy is complex. It involves consideration of conceptual
issues of what determines research impact and policy change. There are also a range of methodological issues
relating to the question of attribution and the counter-factual. The dynamics of SRH, HIV and AIDS, like many
policy arenas, are partly generic and partly issue- and context-specific. Against this background, this article reviews
some of the main conceptualisations of research impact on policy, including generic determinants of research
impact identified across a range of settings, as well as the specificities of SRH in particular. We find that there is
scope for greater cross-fertilisation of concepts, models and experiences between public health researchers and
political scientists working in international development and research impact evaluation. We identify aspects of the
policy landscape and drivers of policy change commonly occurring across multiple sectors and studies to create a
framework that researchers can use to examine the influences on research uptake in specific settings, in order to
guide attempts to ensure uptake of their findings. This framework has the advantage that distinguishes between
pre-existing factors influencing uptake and the ways in which researchers can actively influence the policy
landscape and promote research uptake through their policy engagement actions and strategies. We apply this
framework to examples from the case study papers in this supplement, with specific discussion about the
dynamics of SRH policy processes in resource poor contexts. We conclude by highlighting the need for continued
multi-sectoral work on understanding and measuring research uptake and for prospective approaches to receive
greater attention from policy analysts.

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published by
BioMed Central


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