In this paper, Davies and Nutley provide a primer for those unfamiliar with prior work and conceptual frameworks for understanding the use of research in policy and practice. They critique the over-emphasis on a rational, linear model of research use that focuses on the instrumental use of research by an individual decision-maker, who begins with a policy or practice question, goes searching for information, appraises and weighs that information, and then applies it to a decision. They argue for better understanding of what Carol Weiss termed the conceptual use or enlightenment function of research. In this model, research broadens or challenges people’s understanding of issues and potential remedies. Davies and Nutley also call for increased study of the social processes and social contexts involved in research use. How is research diffused through policy networks? How do policymakers and practitioners come to interpret research through their interactions with colleagues, advocates, and other experts? How does research become embedded in organizations and systems? How is use of research influenced by local contexts?
Learning More About How Research-Based Knowledge Gets Used: Guidance in the Development of New Empirical Research