BACKGROUND: To improve knowledge utilization in policymaking, alignment between researchers and policymakers during knowledge production is essential, but difficult to maintain. In three previously reported case studies, we extensively evaluated complex research projects commissioned by policymakers to investigate how alignment is achieved in a research process and to discover ways to enhance knowledge contributions to health policy. In the present study, we investigated how the findings of these three research projects could be integrated into a practical tool for researchers to enhance their contribution to evidence-based policy.
METHODS: A cross-case analysis was conducted to integrate the findings of the evaluation of the three research projects and to identify important alignment areas in these projects. By means of an iterative process, we prepared a tool that includes reflection questions for researchers. The "Research for Policy" tool was tested with input from the project managers of three new research projects. Based on the findings, the final version of the Research for Policy tool was prepared.
RESULTS: By cross-case analysis of the three case studies, the following important alignment areas were identified: the goal, quality, relevance, timing, and presentation of research, the tasks and authorities of actors, the consultative structure and vertical alignment within organizations, and the organizational environment. The project managers regarded the Research for Policy tool as a useful checklist for addressing the important alignment areas in a research project. Based on their feedback, the illustrative examples from the case studies were added to the reflection questions. The project managers suggested making the tool accessible not only to researchers but also to policymakers. The format of the Research for Policy tool was further adjusted to users' needs by adding clickable links.
CONCLUSIONS: Alignment between research and policymaking requires continuous efforts and a clear understanding of process issues in the research project. The Research for Policy tool offers practical alignment guidance and facilitates reflection on process issues, which supports researchers in aligning with policymakers and in acting in a context-sensitive way.
- Journal Article