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The Making of Impact: Research, Policy and Institutions

Governance
Institutions
Public Policy
Knowledge
Higher Education
Narratives
Policy Change
Policy Implementation
Justyna Bandola-Gill
University of Edinburgh
Justyna Bandola-Gill
University of Edinburgh

Abstract

This presentation will discuss preliminary findings from my PhD research, which explores knowledge exchange organisations in the UK. These new entities (sometimes described as ‘knowledge brokers’) are among the strategies established within UK higher education to secure research impact on policy, the economy or society (ESRC, 2009). While specific descriptions of knowledge brokers vary in the available academic literature, they are consistently positioned as bridges/links between policy and research; their main areas of activity involve disseminating information and translating research, connecting different actors and facilitating relationships (e.g. Reinecke, 2015; Sin, 2008; Ward et al., 2009). In this presentation I will draw on case study data from public health and genomics, to explore what role organisations and individuals charged with this kind of knowledge broker role are playing in the interface between science, knowledge and policy. By doing so, I will examine the underlying assumption prevalent in the knowledge utilisation literature, positioning knowledge brokers as organisations aimed at improving policy outputs. This presentation will focus on two themes. Firstly, I will explore the process of sense-making in knowledge broker organisations, reflecting on their perceived roles in the policy-making process. Secondly, I will explore the features of the institutional and cultural environment of knowledge broker organisations (including policy, academic and funding structures) determining the types of impacts achieved by these organisations. I will then discuss how institutional arrangements, both internal and external to the knowledge broker organisations, influence not only the power structures and availability of resources, but also the different strategies knowledge brokers adopt to influence policy and consequently the types of policy impacts sought (and achieved) by these organisations. By drawing on the STS and policy studies literature, this paper will present an alternative account of knowledge broker organisations as spaces where ideas and stories about ‘research impact’ are made.