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CAPEcast episode 6: Why we need evidence synthesis

In our sixth episode of CAPEcast, our podcast exploring academic-policy engagement, Sarah Chaytor talks to Joanna Chataway and Geoff Mulgan from the ESRC-funded International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO) at UCL. Created during the pandemic, IPPO have mobilised swiftly to assess evidence from around the world to inform UK policy makers, enabling social science evidence to bear on policy making in a more effective way.

In this episode, we discuss the key strands of IPPOs work, spanning care, homeless and mental health, and right now looking at issues such as population level mental health, social capital and the importance of communities supporting each other in the context of the levelling up agenda. We chat about how IPPO embeds public concerns into their work, including the lived experience of those who’ve been especially impacted by COVID-19 to bring all voices into evidence.

We move on to explore the ways in which IPPO does this, through systematic reviews, rapid evidence reviews and international scans, supported by close relationships with central government but critically also with the devolved administrations. In particular, we talk about the need in academic policy engagement to bring evidence together, to synthesise what is available but also reflect how difficult this can be because of the lack of capabilities and structures in government to receive and action evidence in this format.

Our advice from our colleagues from IPPO drawn out in this episode is that it’s never enough to send in interesting reports to policy makers – not only is conversation the best way to share knowledge but we also need constant iteration and discussion between the demand and supply of evidence for policy.

We finish our chat with Joanna and Geoff reflecting on what they’re most proud of in their project, and what’s surprised them in their work to date.

Find out more about IPPO

The IPPO Living Map

The IPPO living map is a searchable database of evidence on the social impacts of COVID-19. It aims to make systematic evidence available and accessible to all those that can benefit from it.