Professor Fiona Blyth AM, Senior Adviser in Knowledge Exchange with the Sax Institute, says recognition of her work in the Australia Day Honours list is a positive sign for role of research in policy development in 21st century Australia.
Professor Blyth was appointed a Member in the Order of Australia for her significant service to medical research and education in the field of public health, pain management and aging, and to health policy reform.
“This [award] is recognition of an important part of my professional life, but also the importance of the whole endeavour to connect evidence with its implementation in policy. The gratifying part of this award is that it will boost the profile of this work,” she said.
Professor Blyth, who has worked with the Sax Institute’s Knowledge Exchange division since 2009, has been involved in the development of a training program for knowledge brokers in the division’s Evidence Check rapid review program. Evidence Checks provide policy makers with a succinct and timely review of evidence to inform the development of new health policies and programs.
In her role as a knowledge broker with the Sax Institute, Professor Blyth said she provided a bridge between policymakers and researchers.
“A broker has a very specific role which is understanding the needs of the policy maker and then translating that to focused research questions,” said Professor Blyth, who is also Associate Dean at Sydney’s Concord Clinical School and Professor of Public Health and Pain Medicine at the University of Sydney. “On the other side, with the policy maker, we quite often help to manage expectations of what is achievable within time and budgetary constraints.”
Professor Blyth, who has brokered more than 50 Evidence Checks, said knowledge exchange was a “really dynamic and interesting space” in which to work.
“For a lot of [policy questions], the evidence isn’t sitting neatly in refereed journals. It’s in reports, it has to be pulled together from a number of sources and then assessed.”
Professor Blyth said policy makers valued the knowledge exchange process in identifying experts to review evidence, and researchers benefited from exposure to the complexities of policy development.
“There are a lot of drivers in how health policy is arrived at, evidence is one component, but there are other factors that play into that space as well.
And the most satisfying aspect of the role, Professor Blyth said, was seeing the end results of the Evidence Checks.
“Two or three years down the track, or sometimes sooner, I will see a new health policy or initiative announced and I will know that started in part with a rapid review of the evidence.”