Impact Practitioners

SPIRIT Action Framework: Achieving better research use in four steps

By 08/06/2023

This 8-page academic paper written by a group of scientists in collaboration with seven Australian and international organisations presents the SPIRIT Action Framework (Supporting Policy In health with Research: an Intervention Trial). Its purpose is to guide, develop and select actions (in the form of intervention strategies) to help increase research use in policy. 

The framework follows a pathway of four steps:

Firstly, you need a catalyst to trigger the research engagement and use. For example, the catalyst could be the need for information for policy design, supporting public persuasion or building the case for funding.

The response to the catalyst is then determined by the capacity of the organisation or individual policymaker to engage with research. The capacity is all the tools, systems, skills and knowledge that policymakers have to use the evidence from your research. Generally speaking, higher capacity leads to increased use of research.

The third pillar is the actions of the organisation to engage with your research. In this stage, policymakers work with your research findings and apply them to practice. For example, they are assessing research findings, commissioning or undertaking further studies and interacting with other researchers. The more effective engagement with research, the greater likelihood of research-informed policymaking. 

Finally, the outcome: research use for policy agenda setting, development, implementation and evaluation. In this step, you analyse how and when your research informed the policymaking process. 

To sum up, the SPIRIT action framework allows you to identify, develop and test intervention strategies that would increase your research use. For example, you could encourage leaders to promote the value of research or offer advice to strengthen the organisation’s tools and systems. Both of these intervention strategies would lead to increased capacity and ultimately to enhanced use of research. 

However, always bear in mind that many factors influence policymaking: research is only one of them. Other factors such as the media, public opinion, stakeholder interests and the economic climate will also influence both the process of policymaking and policy implementation.

This article is part of our initiative, R2A Impact Practitioners. To find out more, please click here.

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