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How effective is the UK's What Works centres' communication

Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication

News - How effective is the UK's What Works centres' communication

The UK has a network of centres dedicated to synthesising and communicating evidence that can help inform policy decisions on a wide range of topics.

But how to communicate that evidence is a big question, and one that the Winton Centre is working on.

We designed a survey that would help us understand how decision makers used the toolkits and whether they accurately understood what information was being communicated. Just over 450 people took part, contacted through seven What Works Centres and Conservation Evidence (a related evidence portal) plus 200 members of the general public. The participants clearly stated their highest priority when using the different toolkits was understanding evidence of effectiveness (i.e. how well an intervention works) and evidence quality (i.e. how solid the scientific evidence is behind the ratings).

Participants consistently expressed a preference for a more detailed breakdown, for example different outcomes by subgroup (such as gender) and different types of outcomes. Some toolkits provide this information. Some do not.

We also found that practitioners (who are delivering policies and services on the ground) and policy makers (who are deciding which policies should be adopted) had slightly different needs. Although both wanted to know the effectiveness and quality of evidence around different types of interventions, the next two priorities for policy-makers were the financial costs and the potential harms of the policies. For practitioners the next two priorities were more detail about the evidence quality: the number and type of studies.

For more, see Cameron Brick's blog for the What Works Centres' site: