Over the past ten years the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has adopted a systematic approach to improving how it sources and uses evidence to inform policymaking. DEFRA has implemented two five-year evidence investment strategy processes that ensured the resources it invested in evidence were better directed towards both long- and short-term policy goals. For the third Evidence Investment Strategy, published in 2014, DEFRA worked with a wide range of external organisations that also provide and use evidence, to bring them into the strategy process. This is strengthening relationships between the ‘demand’, ‘intermediary’ and ‘supply’ sides of the relationship between evidence and policy. The strategy process is now well embedded throughout the whole Department. It ensures that the skills and resources needed to make evidence-informed policy are allocated efficiently and effectively to helping DEFRA address its policy priorities.
Key lessons from the Evidence Investment Strategies are: a. Put policy in the lead: managing the evidence base is an integral part of the policymaking process. The development of the evidence base for policy should be led by policy goals and priorities and linked to policy and delivery targets. b. Use a broad definition of ‘robust evidence’: policy needs to be based on a broad definition of evidence that recognizes knowledge from evaluation and monitoring activities, knowledge from citizens and stakeholders, as well as knowledge from formal research-based disciplines. c. Focus investment in evidence around long-term priorities: ministerial departments have to respond to short-term research and evidence needs. At the same time they should keep a long term view using foresight and future work to ensure that evidence delivers value in the long-term by helping policymakers explore opportunities, risks and uncertainties. d. Link the development and implementation of evidence investment strategies to business planning: an evidence-based approach to policymaking is truly embedded when it is an integral part of departmental business planning processes and when there is a clear relationship between evidence budgets and program budgets. e. Learning from implementing the evidence investment strategies: there is no single piece of guidance to help designing evidence investment strategies, thus the need to develop a tailored approach which learns form each iteration learns from the previous one. It is important to retain key staff to ensure that they are able to use their knowledge to continually refine the process.
The relevance for Indonesia of documenting the experience of DEFRA in developing the Evidence Investment Strategies lies in the fact that: 1) There is limited documentation of processes and systems developed by government organizations to strengthen demand and use of evidence processes; 2) The Evidence Investment Strategy is published online (here) by DEFRA and can be seen as a concrete output of the processes required to map evidence needs and allocate budget to procure the research evidence around specific policy issues. The DEFRA experience with the Evidence Investment Strategies allows to show one possible way to strengthen and institutionalize investments to demand and procure policy research evidence. This does not mean that the Evidence Investment Strategy can be copied and pasted to Indonesia. However, as a concrete example, it can inspire thinking and discussion on whether and how to introduce similar processes in Indonesia.
Investing in Evidence: Lessons from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The working paper in English is here. The working paper in Bahasa Indonesia is here. The infographic is here. The video podcast interview is here.