Bridging the Gap: The Future of Academic-Policy Partnerships in London
In the ever-evolving landscape of health and social care research, the importance of knowledge mobilisation and knowledge brokerage cannot be overstated. In our latest interview, we ask Dr Sarah Jasim to shed some light on the intricate world of academic-policy partnerships and share insights into the transformative potential of these collaborations.
Sarah is a Senior Research Fellow in Care Policy Evaluation Centre (CPEC), LSE; Department of Applied Health Research (DAHR), UCL; National Institute of Health and Care Research Applied Research Collaboration North Thames and CAPE-GLA Policy Fellow. As a Fellow, she has dedicated her time to a knowledge brokerage function in the GLA to build knowledge networks between GLA staff and academics in London and beyond, bringing together communities of practice by engaging with LRaPP.
In this blog, we delve into her vision for London's academic-policy partnerships, exploring models from other regions, key services such partnerships need to provide, and the pivotal role of various stakeholders.
Can you say a bit about your work and interests and how these have developed?
I have been a health and social care researcher within the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North Thames since completing my PhD in 2016. ARCs are regional collaborations funded by the NIHR – which bring together universities, local authorities, NHS and care organisations, civil society, and business organisations working in health and social care in a particular region. At NIHR ARC-NT, we work hand-in-glove with our partners – to ensure any research has immediate relevance to the local population of North Thames and has wider policy relevance. We do this by closely working with patients and the public, local government, and health and care professionals – by building and maintaining local relationships and networks.
Through working in this way, I became increasingly fascinated by ‘knowledge mobilisation’ and ‘knowledge brokerage’ – how information flows between different individuals or communities, and the process by which this occurs. Knowledge brokers are quite common in health and social care research, as you have many health and care professionals who span both practitioner and research roles.
Through taking up a Policy Fellowship with the London Research and Policy Partnership I have become a knowledge broker myself, spanning both the policy and research communities. I have been able to signpost events, resources and key documents; I have been able to use my experience of one community’s way of thinking and working to inform decision-making for the other community; and one of the most useful – I have been able to broker relationships and connect people with each other. Through the work that I’ve been doing, I’ve found there are many knowledge brokers in both research and policy communities who have previous experience with the other community – who can ‘code-switch’ and are able to ease the flow of knowledge and information between each community, something that isn’t openly spoken about, but is seen as highly valuable.
You have spent the last year researching how universities and policymakers work together in London. Can you say a bit more about your high-level vision for academic-policy partnership in London?
Since I came into this role, I have witnessed a huge shift in interest towards academic-policy partnerships. I have seen an increase of policy engagement conferences, training offers to academic researchers explaining how to best engage with policymakers and policy (or reverse policy) Fellowships. Alongside my LRaPP colleagues, we have been successful in being awarded the only Local Innovation Policy Partnership for London – a new type of funding call which aims to bring regional academic researchers, civil society, business and policymakers together.
I imagine the future of academic-policy partnerships in London to be far better structured and embedded in organisations and policy areas – moving away from the ad-hoc and relatively unstructured current picture, and I think the London Research and Policy Partnership with its unique knowledge brokerage service is well-placed to serve London’s partnerships given its roots in London Government, and reach across the multiple London Higher Education Institutions, civil society and business organisations, and interdisciplinary nature.
Are there models in other cities or regions you could point to?
There are great examples of local and regional policy networks in the United Kingdom that LRaPP is linked in with, such as Universities Policy Engagement Network (UPEN), the Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) project (which funded my and Ilias Krystallis as Policy Fellows), Yorkshire Universities (Y-PERN), the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP), the Design and Policy Network, Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP), and the Local Policy Innovation Partnership Hub in Birmingham.
However, what sets LRaPP apart from these models is its deep roots in the London Government having been co-founded by the GLA and University of London, its evidence-based knowledge brokerage service.
Is there a role for other partners in a structure like LRaPP?
Business and civil society are integral to LRaPP, as are key intermediary organisations such as think tanks, consultancies and activist groups.
And what about ‘ordinary’ citizens?
We need to ensure the people and communities of London are at the heart of what we do in research and policymaking – as the research and policies should seek to improve their lives and wellbeing. Building relationships and trust, require careful consideration, lots of resources, and lots more time and patience. We should be careful not to ‘tokenistically’ consult citizens, o extract their lived experience from them for own purposes – and instead adopt a true citizen science approach, working in partnership from the onset of all projects and policies.
You have spoken about some of the limitations about current ways of working? But what has worked well for researchers and/or policymakers?
Bringing them together has unleashed multiple benefits. After collecting data and insights into what has and hasn’t worked when bringing together researchers and policymakers – we are now in the testing and piloting phase, where we are bringing policymakers, academic researchers, business leaders and civil society groups together in different ways and evaluating as we go along. Working in this way, has enabled creative thinking, fostered collaborations and has enabled individuals to see things from different points of view – all which have been considered highly valuable, and encouraging us, as LRaPP, to do more and develop our own partnership more to be able to continue to offer knowledge brokerage services, activities and events.