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Systematic reviews to inform policy: institutional mechanisms and social interactions to support their production

Dickson, Kelly; (2019) Systematic reviews to inform policy: institutional mechanisms and social interactions to support their production. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Background: The last 35 years have seen a proliferation of systematic reviews seeking to synthesise the best available and most relevant evidence to inform policy. In response to a growing interest in the process of generating policy relevant evidence, I conducted further which investigated the perspective of policy makers and academics about producing systematic reviews to inform health systems policymaking. We found that models for producing reviews can be distinguished in terms of their starting point and their purpose. For example, reviews could start with or without a wide agreement about their key concepts and with the purpose of addressing common problems for multiple audience or to inform policy decisions within a specific jurisdiction and timescale (Oliver and Dickson, 2016). As the models were developed in a health systems policy context, the next step was to test their applicability with reviews commissioned in other fields. Aims: This thesis aims to demonstrate, with an analysis of my publications, how my approach to conducting systematic reviews contributes to an understanding of the institutional mechanisms and social interactions required to produce policy-relevant evidence across broader policy areas. Methods: Case example of four reviews were used to explore the utility of models for producing policy relevant reviews. This was achieving by taking an analytical framework of institutional mechanisms previously developed and operationalising the higher order themes into questions to interrogate our approach to producing systematic reviews. This ‘analytical interrogation’ was an iterative and interpretive process which required drawing on our ‘use of self’ to reflexively generate new insights and understanding of producing each review (Finlay and Gough 2008). The focus of our analysis was to explore institutional mechanisms informing review production. These were framed according to themes representing the overlapping social worlds of policy and research: harnessing motivations, engagement between policy and research, and the structures and procedures for producing policy-relevant reviews and their resulting impact. Findings: My analysis in this thesis has contributed to an understanding of producing policy-relevant systematic reviews in several ways. By exploring the literature on this topic I have discovered that while there is research on the barriers to policy research use and mechanisms to increase uptake, an understanding of the process of producing reviews to address the range of policy needs is disparate, cutting across different fields of inquiry (e.g. methods, technology, stakeholder engagement) and is yet to be systematically drawn together. I have attempted to elucidate that producing policy-relevant reviews is both a technical and social enterprise requiring a range of institutional mechanisms and social competencies to navigate the policy-research interface. I have also shown that the production of reviews in broad policy areas has implications for the quality of reviews, which requires addressing the relationship between accountability and ensuring the coherence of the review, alongside the use of rigorous and explicit methods.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Systematic reviews to inform policy: institutional mechanisms and social interactions to support their production
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10054092
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