The Science of Using Science

What works in enabling research use in decision making in policy and practice?

This project, The Science of Using Science, produced a systematic review, policy report and launch event to explore what approaches work in enabling the use of research by policy makers, practitioners and members of the public. This is a collaboration between the Wellcome Trust, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing and the Alliance for Useful Evidence, in association with the EPPI-Centre at UCL.

Why did we set up this project?

The important question is not only whether research findings are available and communicated well, but also whether they are used; and, ultimately, whether in being used they make a positive difference to the world. There have been many studies asking policymakers and other stakeholders what the barriers and facilitators are to using research, and the results suggest that we need to find new ways for researchers and different research users to work together. We need better evidence on the best ways to enable use and impact of research. How confident are we that our favourite approaches actually work?

Project outputs:

  1. The EPPI-Centre undertook a systematic review of the evidence base relevant to increasing the use of research evidence by decision-makers, mapping out what studies have been undertaken and examining their findings. The synthesis included reviews of research on the efficacy of interventions that aim to directly impact on the consideration of research evidence in decision making – for example, CPD activities designed to increase policymakers’ awareness of and capacity to use research in developing policy. As there is extensive social science literature that is relevant to the use of evidence in decision making (but not yet been applied to these issues), the review also examined the research evidence from this broader social science base, drawing on areas such as psychology, communication styles, public communication campaigns and activities, and the marketing research literature. The technical report is available from the EPPI-Centre website.
  2. A discussion paper was produced by the Alliance for Useful Evidence, presenting the key findings of the systematic review and six case studies of good practice.
  3. A launch event was held in April 2016, to disseminate the findings. View videos from the event below.

Welcome and introduction from Jane Elliott (ESRC)


Jonathan Breckon (Alliance for Useful Evidence) explains the background to the project.


Presentation of the findings (part 1) – David Gough, EPPI-Centre


Presentation of the findings (part 2) – Laurenz Langer, EPPI-Centre


Responses from David Halpern (What Works National Adviser) and Nancy Hey (What Works Centre for Wellbeing)


Closing remarks from Jane Elliott (ESRC)