“‘All you need is LOVE’ ’: parliamentary library & research services that support parliaments in winning challenges during times of crisis” – APLAP conference June 2021

I recently had the honour of being invited keynote speaker at the conference of the Association of Parliamentary Libraries of Asia and the Pacific. It was an invitation as Chair of IFLAPARL, and the conference was open to all interested worldwide – two very welcome gestures at a time when regional associations might benefit from closer links between themselves and with IFLAPARL at global level.

Although invited as Chair of IFLAPARL, the request was to give a personal view – sharing my “knowledge, experiences, and insights on library and research services that are responsive to the needs of parliaments and parliamentarians in winning challenges during times of crisis and the corollary human resource management and information access issues.

The presentation slides are attached here but recordings of the full conference will be available online, as will the same presentation file [links to be added when available].

Call for papers – IFLAPARL 2020 conference session: “Evidence-based policy’ and parliamentary library & research service practice: what works?”

IFLAPARL has published a call for papers on the theme of Evidence-Based Policymaking (EBPM). It will host an open session on this theme during the 2020 World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Dublin, Ireland. The WLIC will take place from 15-21 August, 2020. The date of the IFLAPARL session is yet to be confirmed.

The call states:

“Parliamentary library and research services have as a core function the provision of ‘evidence’ for representatives to undertake their work on policy. This is achieved by library and information services and products, and through research services, if offered. Provision is, however, one thing, while actual use may be something else. What does ‘evidence-based policy’ mean in a parliamentary context?

Given that parliamentary library and research services operate in a strictly non-partisan manner, explicit support for a UN SDG may not, in some contexts, be considered neutral. Work around ‘evidence’ however, can arguably make an impact on the objectives of the UN SDGs, whether as an intended outcome or not. The impact of the services would be most marked for UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 which in part concerns an aim to ‘build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions’ but other SDGs are also relevant.

Issues addressed in the session might include:

  • How can science be effectively communicated to the parliamentary audience?;
  • The application of gender-based information and analysis in parliaments (SDG 16 on quality of governance + SDG 5: ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’)
  • How do parliamentarians actually use evidence? – in particular, as information/documentation and library resources, or as research services/products;
  • How parliamentarians can be supported in their use of evidence? (e.g. by training, innovative products/services);
  • Can communication of evidence to parliamentarians be successfully re-used to inform citizens?
  • What insights does the academic study of ‘evidence-based policy’ provide for our practice?
  • What has been the experience of parliamentary services – notably some in Africa – that have consciously applied an ‘evidence-based policy’ approach?
  • What insights can we offer to those studying ‘evidence-based policy’?

The aim of the session is to share knowledge on how services support the use of ‘evidence’ and to critically examine academic study of ‘evidence-based policy’ in a parliamentary context. The academic studies may yield insights into how we can improve our practice; equally our practical experience may have something to add to the academic studies.

IFLAPARL is looking for substantive papers of 4-6 pages taking a critical approach to these issues, with relevant cases from library and research services, including analyses of projects and initiatives of general interest to Section members.”

Full details of the call for papers are on the IFLA site.

2020 WLIC in Dublin.

‘Evidence in action’, Canada – sources on evidence based policymaking in parliaments

This is one in a series of posts on sources on evidence based policymaking in parliaments

Evidence in Action – an analysis of information gathering and use by Canadian parliamentarians’ Kimberly Girling, Research and Policy Director, Evidence for Democracy and Katie Gibbs, Executive Director, Evidence for Democracy. November 2019

This substantial report on the use of evidence by Members in Canada is the product of a campaigning organisation which describes itself as

“the leading fact-driven, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization promoting the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making in Canada. Through research, education and issue campaigns, Evidence for Democracy engages and empowers the science community while cultivating public and political demand for evidence-based decision-making”

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Emma Crewe – sources on evidence based policymaking in parliaments

This is the first in a series of posts on sources used for a presentation on evidence based policymaking in parliaments

“politicians will necessarily be in the business of making political judgements rather than merely rational assessments”

p. 209, Crewe, 2015

Emma Crewe’s ‘House of Commons: an Anthropology of MPs at Work’ (2015) is an account of how UK Members work, based on anthropological observation. It provides insight into how Members actually use information and make decisions – academic study that appeared almost completely absent ten years ago when I researched ‘Members use of information’. Crewe does not directly address parliamentary library/research service issues (neither term is indexed) but she does make some very relevant observations on ‘evidence’ and how Members in the UK parliament use it.

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Evidence-based Policymaking in parliaments and the UN Sustainable Development Goals



The delivery of evidence for Members’ work on policy is arguably the core function of parliamentary library & research services. This puts the services at the heart of current work on ‘Evidence-Based Policymaking’ (EBPM). That work also offers insights into what parliamentary library & research services can expect to achieve and how they might achieve it. Only in Africa, so far, does it appear that services have actively adopted EBPM as an organising framework. What have they gained from it and what can the rest of the world learn?

The delivery of evidence for policy is just one aspect of how parliamentary library & research services are contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably SDG16 on good governance. What is the significance of this contribution?

The download is a presentation from December 2019, a work in progress towards a future paper. EBPM will be a theme at the IFLAPARL conference in 2020 and the work of the African services will, I hope, be presented directly by representatives from the continent.