Where Different Worlds Collide

Expanding the Influence of Research and Researchers on Policy

Researchers need to think from the viewpoint of practitioners and policy-makers in order for their research to have real world impact, according to Rob Moodie of the University of Melbourne (Australia) in a commentary prepared for the 2008 Active Living Research Conference.

Moodie knows there is nothing more frustrating for researchers than to have their work ignored. But he also points out how frustrating it is for policy-makers to face research papers that are impossible to decipher because of technical language, or that recommend nothing more useful than further researcher. The best result is when researchers and policy-makers work together, and Moodie cites examples of how this cooperation has resulted in good policies and programs, well informed by practical and rigorous research.

The author details a list of universal rules and tips for dealing with practitioners and policy-makers, these include:

  • View the world through their eyes; think about their needs and the people they need to convince.
  • Write for them and not for other researchers. Speak their language. Consider preparing a "plain language" abstract.
  • Think about the interests you, as a social scientist, and they, as policy-makers, have in common. Get them involved early in your research. Make them part of your team.
  • Realize the time may not be right for policy-makers to embrace your research and that you may have to wait for a change of political environment.

Moodie acknowledges the skills needed to work with policy-makers may be different from those needed to do research, but he recommends researchers find mentors who are adept at communicating with policy-makers and learn from them.