Framework in the spirit of knowledge exchange

A new framework has been developed to act as a ‘field guide’ to help steer intervention studies designed to increase the use of research in policy, according to a paper by CIPHER, the Centre for Informing Policy in Health with Evidence from Research.

The SPIRIT Action Framework provides a pragmatic approach to the development and testing of evidence-based interventions, according to the paper, published in Social Science and Medicine.

It underpins an intervention and evaluation study known as SPIRIT ‒ Supporting Policy In health with Research: an Intervention Trial. SPIRIT is part of CIPHER’s work, and is evaluating the impact of a suite of strategies designed to increase the capacity of health policy agencies to use research.

CIPHER is funded by an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence grant and is a collaboration between seven Australian and international organisations: the Sax Institute;  the Australasian Cochrane Centre; The University of New South Wales; The University of Newcastle; the University of South Australia; the Australian National University; and University of St Andrews in the UK.

The paper describes the need for more action-oriented approaches to underpin programs designed to strengthen the use of research in policy. It says the SPIRIT Action Framework is aimed at addressing that need.

The pathway to research use among policy agencies

The Framework outlines four steps along a pathway to research use, influence and impact. Firstly, a catalyst is required for the use of research, the response to which is determined by the capacity of the organisation to engage with research. The third step is when a series of research engagement actions occur, which facilitate the final step ‒ the use of research.

The Framework could be used to identify which intervention strategies were most likely to be effective, and to guide knowledge development and practical decisions, the researchers said.

“The Framework can be used to identify where an agency might best invest its likely limited resources to improve the use of research,” the paper states.

The researchers said the SPIRIT Action Framework should be seen as the beginning of a process of articulating and testing causal pathways in the use of research by policy agencies.

“The most important test of the Framework will be its value to policy agencies in selecting which strategies are likely to be most effective for them in building their research responsivity, and its usefulness to researchers in testing new approaches and organising new knowledge,” they concluded.

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