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Imagining a better 2014 (1) Ramón-Antonio Gutiérrez Palacios

[Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of posts called ‘Imagining a better 2014’ that will bring together reflections from a number of researchers and practitioners on the most important lessons and future challenges for promoting the use of research in policy.

Our first respondent is Ramón-Antonio Gutiérrez Palacios, international consultant based in Santiago de Chile, partner at the Innovation Centre for Local Development, lecturer and researcher.]

1. What are the most important lessons about research and policy that you could draw from 2013 to use in 2014? 

RA – It seems convenient to reinforce the commitment with the new knowledge (that is: a knowledge acquired by “us”). For this, a democratic and selective participation of the different agents is required. Also, the new knowledge should adapt its line of argument according to the different institutional levels of promotion and design of policy. An appropriate argumentation is a key factor for influence. In fact, argumentation is the visible link between policy and effective use of new knowledge.

2. What is the most important challenge for you in terms of promoting the use of research in policy in 2014?

RA – Several authors have insisted in the change from an “it was of the ends” approach toward an “it was of the volatility or fragility” one. [Events classified as “wild cards”: type of events, that is, from futures studies approach to disruptive surprises and trend-breaking events. Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum (2012) point out in That Used to Be Us that “average is over”. It now seems that variance itself varies. Thus, instead of speaking of “the normal new”, as Mohamed The-Erian (2010) did, one should perhaps talk of “the new skewedness”. To reflect on issues of dramatic disruptions, biased booms and busts, and violent volatility is timely]. The “remedial” public policy  (ex-post) has demonstrated to be completely insufficient, and, anticipatory public policy is required.  One that can preview, and at to a certain point, to foresee these possible but surprising events (Vgr.: earthquakes, effects of the climatic change, economic crisis with impact on the prices of food, etc.). In this way, then: how to elaborate a coherent public policy about an eventual “wild card”? Starting from the cognitive evidence of the foregone? This seems to be a sizeable challenge, especially in socio-political environments with relatively precarious knowledge regimes.

3. What could we do more collectively?

RA – First, to create a relationships database (topic-problems) of systematic reviews, that allows us to establish hierarchies according to policy priorities. Ideally, we could go for an online software application. Second, to increase the research efforts referred to the processes of knowledge (how), influence and effectiveness reached across different disaggregated levels of public policy (especially the local level). It is necessary to reflect upon the disparities these levels may showcase. Third, to summarize existing practices (best and worst: to measure the possible deviations), and to promote the development of autonomous research capacities in the different agents.