Useful evidence: getting research evidence valued and used
A NetIKX seminar, London, 21 November 2019
Evidence-based information is a popular theme for NetIKX members and this well-attended seminar was no exception. The speaker, Jonathan Breckon from the Alliance for Useful Evidence, opened with the provocative question: why do we need research evidence to make decisions? This led to a lively group discussion covering issues such as what exactly constitutes ‘evidence’ and what you can do if you have no evidence. Among other reasons, we need evidence for accuracy, transparency and making a convincing case for funding. However, policy makers value some kinds of evidence more highly than others and prefer to rely on ‘expert evidence’, ranking research evidence relatively low (below ‘street evidence’ such as urban myths!). Jonathan pointed out that ‘experts’ can sometimes be biased or can get things completely wrong, sometimes with disastrous results. It is important to consider bodies of evidence and to favour systematic reviews over the work of an individual researcher or a single paper.
Jonathan then addressed issues such as how to encourage evidence use and how to convince people to care about evidence. It is vital to involve users right at the start of the research lifecycle and to talk to your users about the research they want. Evidence needs to be tailored and targeted to your audience and effectively disseminated. Jonathan discussed the COM-B model of behaviour change and the work being undertaken by the Alliance for Useful Evidence to join up the UK’s What Works Centres. This was followed by the traditional group breakout sessions where we discussed how we could best use research evidence in our own organisations or everyday lives. Many thanks to our speaker and all who attended for yet another thought-provoking NetIKX seminar.