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‘In an open access world, would evidence-based policymaking be the norm?’ Insights from a HEPI / Taylor & Francis roundtable

  • 8 September 2022
  • By Victoria Gardner

This blog was kindly contributed by Victoria Gardner, Director of Policy at Taylor & Francis.

The questions

  1. How do we make research more usable?
  2. How do we ensure research benefits all stakeholders? 
  3. Is it enough simply to make the outputs of research openly available?  

We explored these three questions at a dinner co-hosted by HEPI and academic publisher Taylor & Francis. All agreed on the value of making research outputs openly available. At the heart of our discussion was a recognition of the challenges that would remain and how we might address them.

The challenges

HEPI and Taylor & Francis co-hosted a lively discussion at the British Academy in London. Participants represented higher education institutions, advocacy organisations and trade bodies, UK Government, funders, learned societies, and publishers. We discussed whether in a world with full open access (OA) to all of the outputs of research, decision-makers would be better placed to formulate evidence-based policy. 

We were guided through the discussion by HEPI’s Director, Nick Hillman. Opening remarks from Taylor & Francis’s Journals Editorial Director, Tracy Roberts, defined open access as making all of the outcomes of research available to any reader. There is clearly still more to be done to ensure that this validated information is comprehensible to a generalist audience. This, in turn, would allow all readers to compare research outputs and identify areas of consensus and debate. 

Attendees were then treated to a series of remarks from our speakers – Tracey Brown OBE from Sense about Science, Sarah Chaytor from UCL and David Sweeney CBE, then at Research England. Discussion then opened out with some challenges expressed: 

  • dealing with ever growing volumes of research outputs or ‘the sea of stuff’;
  • structural incompatibilities across academia and policy – specifically, working to different time scales and differing communication styles between specialists and generalists; and
  • facilitating objective evidence-informed policymaking when bias may be at play, including a particular political agenda.

Recommendations

How do we address these challenges? 

  • encouraging more collaboration between research and policy – specifically in policy formulation (for example, academics being involved in the early stages of policy formulation); 
  • the value of knowledge brokers or intermediaries to ‘translate’ and synthesise research outcomes into actionable insights; 
  • ensuring that rewards and incentives structures in academia encourage collaboration across disciplines and sectors; 
  • being adaptable about the provision of information to better suit the needs of the end user of the research; and
  • providing training for policymakers and the wider public to build broader understanding about the nature of academia and the research process.

Some of these themes have been picked up in subsequent excellent HEPI blog pieces authored by Professor Matthew Flinders, Sarah Chaytor and Dr Paul Marshall. In our forthcoming Policy Note, HEPI and Taylor & Francis will be further exploring these issues and expanding on the suggested approaches.

Next steps

So, what was the consensus view? 

  • Guests agreed that Open Access was a significant and achievable step on the journey towards making research more impactful. 
  • Open Access addresses a repeated and genuine policy problem in having insufficient access to validated and trustworthy information. 
  • Much still remains to be done to encourage active policy engagement with research and disseminate this in forms and formats that suit the needs of a variety of users (many of whom will not be versed in the ways research is produced and validated).
  • Siloes that exist across different sectors, between disciplines, and across cultures need to be broken down.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

HEPI and Taylor & Francis recently hosted a roundtable dinner on open access publishing and policymaking. This is the latest blog is a series:

  • Read ‘Open Access 101’ by Dr Fiona Counsell, Head of Open Access Operations & Policy at Taylor & Francis, here.
  • Read ‘Open Access: The end or the means’ by Victoria Gardner, Director of Policy at Taylor & Francis, here.
  • Read ‘The Open Access Opportunity: Building the Third Space’, by Matt Flinders, Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield here.
  • Read ‘Answering the Challenges to Open Access: The ‘5 Cs’’ by Sarah Chaytor, Director of Research Strategy & Policy at UCL here.
  • Read ‘Does open access provide the potential for improvements in UK governmental policy development’ by Dr Paul M. Marshall, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Careers & Enterprise) at the University of East London here.

Taylor & Francis are on LinkedIn @Taylor & Francis Group and Twitter @WeAreTandF.

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