Institute for Social Renewal

Knowledge, evidence & policy

Knowledge, evidence & policy


How is knowledge and evidence used in policy? How is social justice served by increasing the links between them?

This theme is broadly concerned with the social justice of knowledge production and use in policy. How can we ensure that evidence for policy is inclusive, transparent, robust and makes a real difference to addressing inequalities and injustice? How can we guard against harm done by excluding types of knowledge in public policy processes? How can we strengthen the links between (different types of) knowledge, evidence, policy and impact?

Many of us are familiar with the phrase ‘evidence-based policy’ but there is often a large gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Public policy processes are messy and influenced by many things including public opinion, political agendas, and media stories. Evidence is just one part of the policy making complex and what counts as evidence is often contested and subject to power relations. Some types of knowledge may be disregarded due to bias and discrimination. In addition, policy makers are increasingly over-burdened in increasingly complex, knowledge-intensive environments. How can we help them access the evidence they need and ensure that certain interests are not overlooked? The exclusion of knowledge from the public policy process is potentially a social justice issue. On an individual level also, as political theorist Miranda Fricker (2008) argues in her work on knowledge and justice, all people should have the right to access knowledge which helps them make sense of their experiences. So, in this theme we are also concerned with how we gather and share knowledge for evidence, for example through co-production of research and developing relationships with our stakeholders and research participants

We have academics who are experienced in understanding and working within policy-making environments at the research/evidence interface. We investigate how to improve the social justice aspects of knowledge production and many of our academics are skilled in the co-production of research. We investigate how to improve the social justice impact of our research on policy. In short, we want to make our research processes and our research impact count towards addressing social inequalities and injustice.

We welcome enquiries from anyone who would like to get involved with this theme.

Theme Champion: Professor Sally Shortall, Duke of Northumberland Professor of Rural Economy

Examining the archives

General Election

Newcastle University academics helped to inform debate around social renewal by taking part in a series of blogs in the lead up to the 2015 General Election and beyond.

Newcastle academics contribute to the NISR blog with their ideas for and contributions to policy. You can read some of their ideas in areas as diverse as health and culture below.

Young People and Education‌

Under our Learning for Change theme amongst others, Social Renewal takes a leading role in influencing education policy and practice. Many academics within Newcastle University have undertaken research that investigates how we can invest in young people more effectively. From advertising culture to foreign aid, read academics' ideas for policy around young people and education.

Health and wellbeing

The public health challenges that face our nation need serious consideration from researchers, and that's why under our Health and Inequality and Wellbeing and Resilience themes, we explore these ideas, in order to come up with meaningful solutions. Read academics' ideas for improving our country's health and wellbeing.

Homes and community

Whether it's increasing our rural housing stock, or improving links with local Higher Education institutions, Newcastle University researchers have many ideas for how to enrich British communities. Read academics' ideas for building up our community and housing.

Public services and culture

Academics call for a culture change and a new appraisal of the way that we measure, assess and apply our nation's organisation, in these ideas to change public services and culture.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Academics around Newcastle University have also been taking part in a cross-Societal Challenge Theme Institute initiative to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To find out more, visit the Institute for Social Renewal blog and the Institute for Sustainability blog, or see the links below.

May's Ministers

After Theresa May announced her new cabinet, Newcastle University researchers express their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for the Government in the Ideas for May’s Ministers blog series.

How can individuals, communities and societies can thrive in times of rapid, transformational change? This is the question that researchers across Newcastle University will try to answer in this blog series hosted by the Institute for Social Renewal from July 2016. 

Targeting particular members of Prime Minister Theresa May's new cabinet, this blog series aims to put the knowledge of high quality research to work in the area of policy, and bring real change. 

Read the letters below:

No more planning reforms, please! - Professor Simin Davoudi, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

The trouble with aid: quantity, institutions and utopian ideals - Professor Pauline Dixon, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences 

Banner image for blog series Ideas for May's Ministers July 2016


A policy brief on "Options for Post-Brexit Agricultural Policy in the Peatlands of Upland Britain"

In light of Brexit and the inevitable changes to funding, should the UK government continue to actively manage the peatlands of upland Britain?

There are so many unknowns; how we take this forward is still up for debate. What is certain is that we can’t do nothing.‌

Professor Mark Reed is the N8 Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University, funded through the Agri-Food Resilience Programme, and a Professor in the Institute for Agri-Food Research & Innovation and Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University. 

As part of the #IdeasforMaysMinisters NISR blog series, Prof Reed has launched a policy brief on "Options for Post-Brexit Agricultural Policy in the Peatlands of Upland Britain". 

Download "Options for Post-Brexit Agricultural Policy in the Peatlands of Upland Britain" (2.7MB)

To engage in the conversation, Tweet us @Social_Renewal #IdeasforMaysMinisters

Photo of peatland valley in upland Britain