Why this conference isn’t (primarily) about researchers’ own ability to influence policy and practice

A lot of the interest in the Locating Power of In-between conference has been from researchers excited by the opportunity to talk about what they can do to ensure their research can better influence policy and practice. This is an important area, one that undoubtedly will be covered at the conference, however it is not the focus of the conference.

Instead the focus will be people and organisations that, deliberately and on an ongoing basis, seek to improve connections between multiple sources of research and people involved in policy and practice. This “research intermediary” role is played in many different ways, from aggregation and organisation of research in databases to the creation of spaces in which decision makers can engage with a plurality of researchers and research findings. Many playing it are also researchers or research organisations but the nature of this particular role is different – and it is this that will be the focus of the conference.

Some researchers say that when they are referencing multiple pieces of research, drawing them together, analysing them and communicating them, that they are playing a brokering or intermediary role. In such cases the conceptual boundary between a literature review and some intermediary work is slim or non-existent. Others argue that if researchers are doing their influencing work effectively that there is no need for intermediaries.

But this conference will explore the hypothesis that there are differences in the roles, different values, practices, considerations and challenges and that this role does have a contribution to make even if researchers are communicating effectively. These are some of the reasons why the organisers feel that this “in-between” role is worth of focus. These ideas and hypotheses will be presented at the conference in the session ‘How research brokers and intermediaries contribute to evidence based pro-poor policy making: framing the debate’.

Agree, disagree, want to know more?? Please comment on this post.

Catherine Fisher, IDS

Related Links: Between Ourselves: the new generation of information and knowledge intermediaries (pdf)

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One Response to Why this conference isn’t (primarily) about researchers’ own ability to influence policy and practice

  1. powerinbetween says:

    From Carl Jackson, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), U.K

    Thanks for restating the hypothesis about IKMs really clearly. To try to expand a little, its very true that conceptually someone who primarily engages in research (knowledge generation) can play a subsidiary intermediary / broker role that is conceptually very similar. How that role play is understood by the knowledge user can be quite different though. To me this is differences is significantly explained by the relationship between the primary identity of the person acting and their role. To the extent that they are cast as a researcher who also has a lot invested in the impact of the knowledge they personally generate, their intermediation or brokerage of other people’s knowledge may well be seen as closely coupled to their research ideas (whether it is or not). The same would apply to people cast as policy makers because they also generate knowledge themselves. The power of in-between could lie then in being cast as someone who is not personally generating knowledge. This doesn’t have to mean that we have to draw ever harder and clearer boundaries dividing these roles. People do and can legitmately move between them. So perhaps the issue is that how the assumption of these roles and our moves between them is perceived by knowledge users greatly effects the legitimacy of IKM action – something that is largely in the eye of the beholder.

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