Researching for Policy Relevance

Critical reflections on government-sponsored research

Authored by: Deborah Peel , Greg Lloyd

The Routledge Handbook of Planning Research Methods

Print publication date:  November  2014
Online publication date:  August  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415727952
eBook ISBN: 9781315851884
Adobe ISBN: 9781317917038


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Research skills are not simply the province of academic institutions and private study but the bedrock of public policy design and implementation. Governments, for example, commission independent and applied research in order to improve the process and execution of policymaking (Bridgman and Davis, 2003). Incorporating a strong research discipline as part of a policy cycle is held to enable governments variously to identify policy options; assess the likely effectiveness of proposed interventions; monitor and evaluate progress of policies and instruments towards stated ends; promulgate best practice in policy implementation; and test – or indeed legitimate – the appropriateness of policy priorities. From such a positivist assertion, a rigorous research craft lies at the very core of government and governance. A study undertaken for the Scottish government which examined the range of research activities engaged in by practitioners in local authorities, for example, identified certain key areas where it was considered that further research skills training was necessary, including: questionnaire and survey design, general research methods, statistical techniques, evaluation and qualitative research techniques (Light-owler, 2007). Those findings not only highlighted the range of research methods necessary in planning practice but also confirmed the importance of planning and development professionals acquiring a robust research craft.

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