Evidence-based policy is at risk. The evidence itself isn't making it from research to recommendations fast enough. Or, at least that's what some participants were arguing at the annual EPIP (European Policy in Intellectual Property) conference in Glasgow last week. The focus was primarily on the failing of academic research to permeate IP policy. This is not unique to IP, it remains a challenge to generating evidence-based policy.
|Julia Reda, CC by Tobias M. Eckrich|
The types of pithy data that gain currency in policy debates aren't necessarily the type of data produced by academic research. When data does make it into policy debates, it often loses its caveats or even origins. [Merpel is considering inventing her own IP katistic to see how far it goes.]
"Data measurement isn't glamourous," as Jonathan Haskel, Imperial College, noted, and is less likely to get published. Stuart Graham, former Chief Economist of the USPTO and currently Georgia Tech, called for journal editors to devote more pages to data-focused articles. (e.g. a forthcoming special edition of Journal of Economics and Management Strategy.)
A challenge to translating research into policy is the misalignment of incentives. Career advancement in academia is primarily dependent on publications and securing funding, not impact. While the UK government funders have introduced an "Impact Agenda" designed to encourage impact, it's a slow process. A concrete step is the new policy that funded research be published in open access journals (free at the point of consumption.) Academics are also encouraged to use social media to disseminate research, but it's not translating to career advancement.
Timing is also out of sync. While changes in policy may seem slow, in reality they can be very fast and have very specific deadlines. Policy makers have to be quick in building and evidencing policy, which may leave little time to identify research. Academic research is less constrained by specific questions and works to flexible timing. A fantastic statistic showing that green patents save baby seals, but published the day after the government's policy is signed off, may be as helpful to furry animals as Chanel's $1M sable fur coat.
Professor Samuelson encouraged IP academics to publish in venues policy makers are likely to read, to write the '2-pager' (a two-page summary) and to seek out policy makers. Funnily enough, that sounds like an oddly familiar strategy - it's exactly what lobbyists do.
Academics adopting lobbying strategies is an interesting proposition. It could really increase the impact of research and inform policy. Yet it raises a number of questions about independence, academic freedom and the impartiality of academic research.
So, whose responsibility is it to translate academic research into policy? The obvious candidates are academics and policy makers. At the moment, it is primarily lobbyists who selectively publicise statistics supporting their arguments. Yet, as Ian Hargreaves, Cardiff, quipped, "the voices of the digital many should not be drowned out by the digital self-interested few."