Pathways to policy impact: A new approach for planning and evidencing research impact

Mark S. Reed, Rosalind Bryce, Ruth MacHen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Background The use of research in policy settings is complex, unpredictable and influenced by a range of poorly understood social factors. This makes it difficult to plan for, facilitate and evaluate policy impacts arising from research. Aims and objectives 1. Propose and test tools for planning for and facilitating research impact, based on a new logic model combined with a novel approach to public/stakeholder analysis. 2. Propose and test methods for establishing causal links between research and policy impacts . 3. Use case study findings to provide new empirical insights into the social processes that mediate the generation of impact from research. Methods Social Network Analysis, qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews, and analysis of secondary data were used in a case study of peatland climate change research in Scottish Government policy. Findings Boundary organisations and centrally-positioned, well-trusted individuals, were crucial to the development of a trusted body of research in which policymakers were sufficiently confident as the basis for policy. Discussion and conclusions The non-linear social dynamics that characterise science-policy networks can be understood and evaluated. By using the tools described in this paper, researchers and other stakeholders can better plan, facilitate and evaluate research impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-458
Number of pages28
JournalEvidence and Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPrint publication - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Ecocycles project, funded by EU Framework 6

Funding Information:
This research was funded by EU Framework 7 under the Ecocycles project, and draws on research funded by the Rural Economy and Land Use programme and ESRC funded Sustainable Uplands project, Durham Doctoral Studentship PhD research, and a Scottish Government funded evaluation of their Strategic Research Portfolio.Thanks to Kathryn Oliver for insightful feedback as guest editor,which helped shape and significantly improve this paper, and two anonymous reviewers.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Policy Press.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Impact evaluation
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Research impact


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