Making a difference: M&E of policy research

Working and discussion papers
June 2007
Ingie Hovland

This paper aims to advance understanding on how to monitor and evaluate policy research, i.e. research that is undertaken in order to inform and influence public policy. Policy is defined very broadly to encompass both policy decisions and processes, including implementation.  Conventional academic research is usually evaluated using two approaches: academic peer review, and number of citations in peer-reviewed publications. For policy research programmes, these evaluation tools have proven too limited. They are not well suited to capture some of the broader aims of policy research, such as policy impact, changes in behaviour, or building of relationships. In short, policy research programmes need new monitoring and evaluation (M&E) approaches in order to know whether they are making a difference, not only in the academic world but also in the world outside academia. The paper is written with research programmes and institutions in mind, rather than individual researchers. It presents examples and approaches on how to do M&E of policy research from the current experience of a range of research institutes, think tanks and funding bodies. The approaches have been divided into the following five key performance areas: (i) Strategy and direction; (ii) Management; (iii) Outputs; (iv) Uptake; and (v) Outcomes and impacts. Research programmes or institutes may wish to focus on only one of these areas, or may combine approaches across the areas to form a more comprehensive M&E plan.