Report shows gaps between housing policy professionals and research

A report by Victoria University of Wellington researchers has found that housing policy professionals face barriers in accessing the knowledge they need to do their jobs effectively.

The report, commissioned by independent building research institute BRANZ and led by Associate Professor Karl Löfgren from the University’s School of Government, shows there is huge demand from policy professionals for access to evidence.

“Despite this demand, respondents said that their access to research outputs is limited. Access means many things in this context—whether it’s paywalls to peer-reviewed article databases or libraries, the lack of plain English used by academics in their research articles, or the lack of short, digestible summaries in research articles, says Associate Professor Löfgren.

“In addition, the respondents value research that is evidence-based, practical, and relevant to them, as well as from a reputable source, which are not always easy to find.

“There is also a demand for storytelling in research—not just reporting the facts, but explaining why the results are relevant, how they fit in with other pieces of research, how they fit in with wider policy narratives, and why they might be important to the public.”

The study analysed feedback from 14 focus groups and a one-on-one interview conducted with a total of 45 participants from various organisations across the country. Associate Professor Löfgren was assisted by PhD student Sarah Bickerton.

The findings in the report suggest there is a general lack of systematic research support for housing policy professionals, says Associate Professor Löfgren.

“There are many differences between policy analysts and advisors’ criteria for selecting and applying good sources for policy, and the standards of academic outputs.

“Overall there is a need for a reliable and trusted single source of knowledge production and facilitation in the housing policy area. Perhaps a function that can filter new research and put it together in an easily accessible format and language.

“We also recommend an increase in interdisciplinary research in this area, and more training in research analysis and advice within the community of organisations working within housing policy.

“However, bigger conversations may be required to truly tackle the barriers between policy workers and academia.”

The report follows a similar survey on policy professionals in New Zealand government carried out in 2014 and published in Policy Quarterly.