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UK Study Tour on Evidence-Based Policy Making

In November PERFORM organised a study and exposure tour to the UK with the aim of providing senior government officials and social scientists from Albania and Serbia with a first-hand opportunity to learn about the structures and mechanisms of evidence-based policy making in the British Government system and how the system contributes to better quality policies and decisions.

The researchers and academics in UK are very much interested in contributing to policy making, since they are incentivised to conduct policy research, the participants in the study tour learned from Sir Robin Grimes, the Chief Scientific Advisor in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Namely, 25% of annual marks of researchers and academics are counted based on their contribution to policy development, which is also a strong incentive for young researchers to get involved with policy research as well.

The Pairing Scheme

At the Royal Society, an independent scientific academy dedicated to promoting excellence in science, the participants had an opportunity to hear about their Pairing Scheme, which provides policymakers and researchers an opportunity to experience each other’s worlds.

“Benefits of the scheme are networking, trust-building and getting the knowledge on certain issues”, highlighted Prof. Peter Styring, from the Sheffield University and Dr Emma Hennessy, Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, who participated in the Pairing Scheme.

Those taking part gain an insight into how research findings can help inform policy making, and come away with a better understanding of how they can get involved. Researchers and policy makers visit each other in their workplaces and shadow each other for 4 days, to get an insight into their everyday job.

The Role of the Parliament and Office for National Statistics

The participants had an opportunity to talk to a number of Government officials, social scientists, and MPs, as the Parliament also plays a very important role in UK evidence-based policy making system. The role of the two Committees on Science & Technology (of the House of Commons and the House of Lords) is to scrutinise the policy making process and ensure that Government policy and decision-making are based on good scientific and engineering advice and evidence. 
Visit to the London branch of the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), the largest independent producer of official statistics, allowed the participants to see how it not only provides data and analytical support to the central Government, but also participates in early stages of the policy process (sitting at the table at initial discussions).
“The visit was most useful and we managed to understand how the evidence-based system in the UK is functioning. Of course, it is not directly implementable, but the logic of structuring the system can be applicable, I believe, both in Albania and Serbia. Precondition for this is that the Government shows strong commitment to using more evidence in the policy making and starts allocating funds for this purpose”, said Prof. Drini Imami of the Agricultural University of Tirana.

The visit was organised with the support of the British Embassy in Belgrade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

Download the full report from the study visit here.