How well do the UK government?s ?areas of research interest? work as boundary objects to facilitate the use of research in policymaking?

Annette Boaz, Kathryn Oliver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Articulating the research priorities of government is one mechanism for promoting the production of relevant research to inform policy. This study focuses on the Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) produced and published by government departments in the UK. Through a qualitative study consisting of interviews with 25 researchers, civil servants, intermediaries and research funders, the authors explored the role of ARIs. Using the concept of boundary objects, the paper considers the ways in which ARIs are used and how they are supported by boundary practices and boundary workers, including through engagement opportunities. The paper addresses the following questions: What boundaries do ARIs cross, intended and otherwise? What characteristics of ARIs enable or hinder this boundary-crossing? and What resources, skills, work or conditions are required for this boundary-crossing to work well? We see the ARIs being used as a boundary object across multiple boundaries, with implications for the ways in which the ARIs are crafted and shared. In the application of ARIs in the UK policy context, we see a constant interplay between boundary objects, practices and people all operating within the confines of existing systems and processes. For example, understanding what was meant by a particular ARI sometimes involved ?decoding? work as part of the academic-policy engagement process. While ARIs have an important role to play they are no magic bullet. Nor do they tell the whole story of governmental research interests. Optimizing the use of research in policy making requires the galvanisation of a range of mechanisms, including ARIs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-333
Number of pages20
JournalPolicy Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


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