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      Identifying Trustworthy Experts: How Do Policymakers Find and Assess Public Health Researchers Worth Consulting or Collaborating With?


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          This paper reports data from semi-structured interviews on how 26 Australian civil servants, ministers and ministerial advisors find and evaluate researchers with whom they wish to consult or collaborate. Policymakers valued researchers who had credibility across the three attributes seen as contributing to trustworthiness: competence (an exemplary academic reputation complemented by pragmatism, understanding of government processes, and effective collaboration and communication skills); integrity (independence, “authenticity”, and faithful reporting of research); and benevolence (commitment to the policy reform agenda). The emphases given to these assessment criteria appeared to be shaped in part by policymakers' roles and the type and phase of policy development in which they were engaged. Policymakers are encouraged to reassess their methods for engaging researchers and to maximise information flow and support in these relationships. Researchers who wish to influence policy are advised to develop relationships across the policy community, but also to engage in other complementary strategies for promoting research-informed policy, including the strategic use of mass media.

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          Most cited references41

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          The Many Meanings of Research Utilization

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            Using 'linkage and exchange' to move research into policy at a Canadian foundation.

            J Lomas (2022)
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              How do drug policy makers access research evidence?

              Policy decisions are informed by a number of factors: politics, ideology and values, perceived public opinion, and pragmatic constraints such as funding. Research evidence is also used to inform decision-making but must compete with these other inputs. Understanding how policy makers access research evidence may assist in encouraging greater use of this evidence. This study examined the sources of research evidence that Australian government drug policy makers accessed when faced with their most recent decision-making opportunity. Drug policy makers across health and police government portfolios were interviewed (n=31) and asked to report on the sources of research evidence used in their most recent decision-making. Nine sources were reported, the most frequent of which were seeking advice from an expert and consulting technical reports. Accessing the internet, using statistical data and consulting policy makers in other jurisdictions were used in about half the cases. The least frequently used sources were academic literature, relying on internal expertise, policy documents and employing a consultant. There is a tension between the type of information source most suited to policy makers--simple, single-message, summative and accessible--and the types of information produced and valued by researchers--largely academic publications that are nuanced and complex. Researchers need to consider the sources that policy makers use if they wish their research to be utilised as one part of policy making.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                5 March 2012
                : 7
                : 3
                [1 ]Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
                [2 ]The Sax Institute, Haymarket, New South Wales, Australia
                [3 ]Institute of Public Goods and Policies, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Madrid, Spain
                [4 ]University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia
                [5 ]Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
                [6 ]School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia
                Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: SC WH SR AH JG GD. Performed the experiments: AH GD HS. Analyzed the data: AH GD HS. Wrote the paper: AH.

                Haynes et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 8
                Research Article
                Non-Clinical Medicine
                Public Health
                Science Policy
                Research Assessment
                Social and Behavioral Sciences
                Political Science



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