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Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Blog Post | Last updated: 16 Jan 2023

Mapping Parliamentary Research Mechanisms Around the World

Mapping Parliamentary Research Mechanisms Around the World


Dr Vicky Ward – University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK & Parliamentary Academic Fellow, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, UK

Dr Mark Monaghan, Loughborough University, UK & Parliamentary Academic Fellow, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, UK

A Commission document to trigger a broad policy discussion on science for policy in Europe

The importance of scientific and academic research to the policy process has been at the forefront of discussions within and between academic and policy communities for several decades. Recent initiatives – such as the European Commission Staff Working Document on ‘Supporting and Connecting policymaking in the Member States with scientific research’ suggest that these discussions are unlikely to go away any time soon (see here for an excellent overview (especially for non-attendees) of the event launching the working document). In fact, the document’s publication was followed by a discussion on the issue of science for policy among the research ministers of the EU-27 states (summed up here), in which the governments recognised the importance of scientific knowledge for public policymaking.  The document itself aims to inform how EU Member States can make better use of ‘scientific research to inform their decision-making’. It has 3 associated objectives:   

  • To understand the rationale behind building capacity of science-for-policy ecosystems 
  • To consider the challenges encountered at the science and policy interface 
  • To generate and disseminate good practice at both the EU and Member States level, along with a range of EU instruments/policies in support of Member State's capacity building in the field of science for policy 

Lessons from a global project mapping Parliamentary research infrastructure: Important role for Parliaments and looking beyond the Global North for Europe’s science-for-policy discussions

Improving the bridges between research and policy is essential. It is our contention, however, that conceptualisations of the science-for-policy ecosystem often overlook two important considerations. First, is the role that parliaments play in scrutinising policy and legislation. Second, that the identification and dissemination of good practice can and should reach beyond the global North.

Over the past 15 months we have been working in the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) on a project mapping the research infrastructure – or mechanisms as we refer to them - in parliaments across the world. We have presented the early findings in an interactive map hosted by the International Parliament Engagement Network.

Our map was generated via online searches for parliamentary research services in 187 countries listed on the Inter Parliamentary Union website. We followed this up with a bespoke survey sent out to a sub-sample of countries. We used the Commonwealth as a naturally occurring sample here as it consists of countries from across the Global North and South and would avoid duplicating ongoing research on Francophone parliaments. Finally, we did a deeper dive into the minutiae of various research services through a series of in-depth interviews. Here are some of the key things we have discovered:

  • Most parliaments have an established service for accessing and connecting with research. In many the focus is primarily on collating academic research and/or providing parliamentarians with evaluation and other forms of data about pertinent policy areas. Others, however, go beyond this to analyse, synthesise or produce academic research for parliamentary purposes and/or provide direct links to the academic community. Whilst both types of service are undoubtedly valuable to the parliaments they serve, the 73 currently included on our map are those that appear to provide these enhanced services.
  • The literature documenting the process of evidence-based policy making is heavily skewed towards the Global North, but there are parliaments elsewhere that have large-scale and advanced infrastructure. For example, the Ghana Parliament Research Department employs 27 researchers and analysts across four research areas whilst the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services ( has provided over 1,500 research-based articles, technical and thematic papers to individual Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and cross-party caucuses.
  • There is an emerging network of knowledge exchange amongst those supporting parliamentary scrutiny through the provision of research evidence. It is not uncommon for parliaments (at both the national and sub-national level) to engage in visits to other parliaments and organisations to share knowledge about the challenges and potentialities of delivering high-quality research to Members.
  • There are capacity issues. The volume of work and expected turnaround times are a common theme across parliamentary research services. It is unclear whether this is a product of more sophisticated and efficient ways of producing evidence for scrutiny that generates additional demand, or if this is associated with the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that characterises modern societies. Quite often research mechanisms are staffed by junior and senior research generalists. For them, subject specific knowledge can seem to be compromised under the urgency of needing to provide timely advice.  Other challenges concern the capabilities of parliaments to offer parliamentary researchers clear career progression. Entry into parliamentary research services often stems from an almost idealist commitment to research as a public good whilst promotion into management roles requires researchers to become a step removed from the research process.  

Our research has demonstrated that parliaments across the world have mechanisms for accessing high-quality research evidence and that there is far more going on in this space than the current literature may suggest.  There appear to be a range of common challenges that these mechanisms face across different contexts, suggesting that more dialogue between them would be beneficial for sharing and developing possible solutions. This is an opportunity we hope to provide during the final stages of our project, as we seek to help mechanisms connect with and learn from one another.