Research Use and Impact Assessment

The Research Use and Impact Assessment (RIA) research programme is an inter-disciplinary team of professionals (researchers and practitioners) primarily grounded in the social, behavioural and economic sciences. The programme includes staff grounded in the humanities (specifically philosophy, languages and the arts) and work of the programme proceeds on the basis that values and patterns of meaning are vital and central to its work. The parameters of our work are defined in the context of global transitions and transformations.

The vision of the RIA research programme is an inclusive and engaged society that makes innovative use of research evidence and indigenous knowledge to improve its understanding of social dynamics and enhance innovations for transformative change[1]. In the context of mediating the relationship between science and society as well as between science and policy, we see this mission as requiring that we work at the research-policy-action nexus, focus on stakeholder-engaged science, and support open science/data and citizen science initiatives. In fulfilling this vision, in the context of our democratic constitutional dispensation and transformation imperatives, we adhere to the following values as articulated by the International Science Council:

(a) Excellence and professionalism,

(b) Inclusivity and diversity,

(c) Transparency and integrity, and

(d) Innovation and sustainability.

We work across the research, data analysis, science communication, knowledge brokering, policy advice, and evaluation value chain. In order to work across this value chain the programme is organised into four research thematic areas (sections): Science Communication; Systems & Decision-Making; Implementation Science & Data Analytics; and Policy & Research Impact. As required by the HSRC Act, we endeavour to be non-partisan, influential, and trusted research collaborators to policy makers, public sector practitioners, and non-state actors.

Because we work at the research-policy-action nexus, knowledge mobilisation (Phipps and Shapson, 2009[2]) is a key component of our work and we coordinate the use of knowledge platforms and products to inform policy development and programme implementation. Because of this RIA’s research agenda and the orientation of its professional practice can be conceptualised as occurring within a ‘knowledge, policy and power framework’ that requires understanding and sensitivity to four critical dimensions: context, actors, types of knowledge and knowledge interaction processes (Jones et al. 2012 [3]) .

In the context of normative change, the co-production of knowledge and narrative change are the primary logics that RIA uses in fulfilling its mission. Recognising that both research and policy-formulation are embedded within narrative structures that make sense of society, narrative change refers to an understanding of the way in which changes to the multiple narratives of society can bring into focus new concerns or exclusions, and can facilitate the production of new meanings and values[4].

  1. For a discussion of the different kinds of innovations for transformative change (policy, institutional, social, technological and conceptual/discursive) see the UNRISD Flagship Report for 2016: Policy Innovations for Transformative Change.
  2. Phipps, D. J. and Shapson, S. (2009) “Knowledge mobilization builds local research collaborations for social innovation” Evidence & Policy, 13(4), 802-821.
  3. Harry Jones, Nicola Jones, Louise Shaxson and David Walker (2012) “Providing practical guidance for in-country programming: the value of analysing knowledge, policy and power” ODI Background Note December 2012.
  4. https://onthinktanks.org/articles/the-role-of-narrative-change-in-influencing-policy/.

Our specific Research Outputs are shown here, as well as our Events and our coverage in the Media.