Research Awareness Week in the National Assembly of Zambia – a view from the Research Department

‘Research Weeks’, in the context of parliamentary library & research services, are events to promote awareness and use of research by parliamentarians. The distinctive feature of this type of event is that they bring in external research bodies to promote their work directly to the parliament. They may combine this with promotion of the in-house research service although that is not always the case. ‘Research Weeks’ are discussed as a promotional method, with case studies, in this previous post.

The Research Department of the National Assembly of Zambia was impressed by the experience of their colleagues in Uganda (reported in the post linked above) and worked with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to put on a ‘research week’ event in their parliament in September 2022.

The ‘Research Awareness Week’ was a lively affair with active participation by Members! You can see for yourself in the photos and videos below.

Honourable Philimon Twasa, MP dancing to a traditional piece at the official launch of the Research Awareness Week

The text below is an account of the experience provided by Mr Kelezo Lushako, Research Officer of the Research Department, National Assembly of Zambia. The first part (1) is a report on the event which is followed by (2) Photos and (3) Videos. The final part (4) has reflections from Kelezo on the practical experience of organising and putting on the event.


1. Report on the event


Parliamentarians regularly face the temptation to debate from personal or political stand-points often neglecting credible evidence. When this practice is sustained, it leads to irreparable effects of disinformation and misinformation.  The impact is severe as it results in the loss of confidence and honor placed on the Legislature. These were some of the sentiments shared by the Rt. Honourable Madam Nelly Mutti, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia at the official launch of the inaugural Research Awareness Week (RAW) held in Lusaka, Zambia.

Rt. Honourable Madam Nelly Mutti, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia, speaking at the launch

The National Assembly of Zambia (NAZ), in collaboration with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), held the Research Awareness Week (‘RAW’) from 20th to 22nd September, 2022, at Parliament Buildings, under the theme: Scaling Up the Use of Evidence Among Parliamentarians”. The event sought to raise the profile and visibility of the Research Department with a view of increasing demand for research products and services by Members of Parliament (MPs).

The event was held following a series of preparatory works that began as early as 2019. However, the process was punctuated with postponements due to several challenges, which included the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, inadequate funding and the maiden nature of the event. In March, 2022, the Research Department, with support from the IPU, resumed preparatory works for the RAW until its eventual accomplishment in September of that same year. In the build-up to the event, IPU played a facilitatory role such as aiding the learning and adaptation of experiences, insights and lessons from Parliaments of Uganda, Ghana, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In addition to technical assistance, the IPU provided financial support in excess of US$13,000 to cover expenses for branding materials and printing research products that were exhibited during the RAW.

The Research Department held the RAW for three (3) days alongside seven (7) external stakeholders, namely:

  1. Zambia Statistics Agency (ZAMSTAT);
  2. United Nations System;
  3. Oxfam Zambia;
  4. Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR);
  5. The Institute of Economic and Social Research (INESOR), a research Centre of the University of Zambia (UNZA);
  6. Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (ZIPAR); and
  7. Agricultural Policy Research and Outreach Institute (IAPRI).

The exhibitors took turns to induct an overwhelming clientele, mostly MPs, on the products and services on display, stirring healthy interactions between information suppliers and users. During the event, MPs as primary users collected several publications for use in their parliamentary work as well as for restocking their Constituency Office Information Centres.

Ultimately, holding the RAW, alongside external exhibitors, led to an unprecedented spike in demand for research products and services by MPs. The increased demand and use of evidence among parliamentarians was the most noticeable outcome that confirmed the raised profile and visibility of the Research Department.

2. Photos of the event

3. Videos of the event

Launch of the Research Awareness Week

[Note there is a series of short reflections by individual Members on the value of research and quality information to their work, as well as their thoughts on the Research Awareness Week – at 19:45-26:10 in the video. IW]

Tour of the stands

4. The experience of preparing and running the event


The Research Department of the National Assembly of Zambia acquired valuable experiences during the preparatory phase of its inaugural Research Awareness Week (RAW) that was held from 11th to 23rdSeptember, 2022. The experiences include those on the process, challenges and opportunities during the period 2019 to 2022.

What prompted you to hold the RAW?

Intentions to hold the RAW emanated from concerns raised about the declined demand for research products and services by Members of Parliament (MPs). The reduced demand for research products and services existed for some time. These concerns were confirmed in the 2019 self-assessment report which revealed that parliamentary research services in supporting the oversight function of Parliament were inadequate. In this regard, the Research Department resolved to find means of making the Department more visible as a way of scaling-up the demand for its products and services.

What kind of work involved the initial preparations? 

The Research Department succeeded in drafting key planning documents in readiness to hold the RAW in 2020. Some of the documents included the concept note, budget and implementation plan. Meanwhile, the Department also begun wide consultations with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), sister Parliaments and other Organisations resident within Zambia. The maiden nature of the event prompted the Department to draw lessons and learn from the experiences of the IPU and other Parliaments that had held similar events in the past. The idea was to help the National Assembly Research Department to successfully hold the RAW. However, the event could not take place as earlier planned in 2020 due to a number of challenges.

Why did it take you so long to hold your inaugural RAW?

The RAW was postponed due to a number of challenges, key among them was the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the global community to suspend physical gatherings as they were seen to be the major factor contributing to the rapid spreading of the Covid-19 virus. Additionally, the Department suspended the RAW due to inadequate funds. However, after the Covid-19 pandemic subsided, the Research Department, in collaboration with the IPU, managed to source the funds and resumed the preparatory work in March, 2022.

Who did you collaborate with to actualise your plans?

To actualise the RAW plan, eleven (11) Departments of the National Assembly of Zambia were incorporated to provide support services required for hosting the event. In addition, seven (7) external partners were carefully selected to participate in the RAW on the basis of their value as alternative sources of evidence for MPs and essential partners for research information. 

Did you experience any specific challenges with the partners?

The steering team experienced some difficulties when coordinating the internal and external partners largely owing to inexperience. This was quite obvious because it was the first time our Parliament held an event of that sort. However, the exposure from the IPU sufficiently enlightened the team to expect challenges of this nature.

How was the turn-out of Members of Parliament and did you manage to meet all their requests?

The holding of the RAW, alongside external exhibitors, attracted the attention of most MPs who visited the exhibition stands to enquire on the various products and services on display. The Members turned-up in large numbers during the period of the RAW, mainly to collect the limited copies of products on display for use in their parliamentary work as well as restocking their Parliamentary Constituency Office Information Centres. Unfortunately, not all MPs managed to access the hardcopies because only a few were printed for display. In hindsight, more hardcopies should have been printed for MPs, however, the Department desired to uphold the e-Parliament agenda and reduce the use of paper as much as possible. Moreover, the funds were not adequate to make the extra copies for MPs.

What opportunities have you witnessed after holding the RAW?

Despite facing a number of challenges during the preparation phase, the RAW presented a number of opportunities for the Research Department. The opportunities include; increased numbers of MPs visiting the Research Department, strengthened collaboration with external partners and having the opportunity to assess information needs of MPs. Further, holding the inaugural RAW, helped the Research Department to fulfill the objective of raising its profile and visibility, so as to enhance the demand for research products and services by MPs.


Parliament Buildings

P. Box 31299


‘Raising the profile’ / 9. Conclusions and recommendations


The survey showed that there is a great deal of profile-raising activity going on and some very positive success stories and practical examples to follow.

What works?

No one method of profile-raising is used, and found to be effective, universally. There is a shortage of evidence for what works and this might be a subject for further work, by IFLAPARL and/or others. There is scope for experiment and innovation, including with methods that are currently used in only a few places.

What works must depends partly on the local context but, according to the survey results, direct personal contact with Members is likely to be a principal key to success. The best-rated method achieved a ‘highly effective’ assessment from 50% of respondents: “Presentation of the service to Members individually, interviews with Members”. Several other highly-rated methods include personal contact so at least one might be applicable in the local context.

There is a place for online or paper-based communication – making research publications available and publicising the service offer – but the survey suggests that the impact may be limited. There is also a place for action to build the reputation of the service – not direct advertising or promotion to Members or (potential) service users, but activities which will enhance awareness and reputation of the research service inside the parliament and beyond.

Three methods were felt to have some effect by every service using them: two concerned work with Committees, the other was requesting feedback after work had been delivered. If those options are locally available then any service should consider using them.

There are methods which are not widely widely used but are highly rated by those who deployed them. These minority choices might be seen as a partial corrective to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ identifying the most popular methods. The most striking example of this is ‘open days and research weeks’ – used by only seven services, but five of them rated it as ‘highly effective’. It looks like there could be alternatives worth looking at and there is also still scope for innovation in profile raising.

By contrast, for many methods there is difficulty in knowing what impact they have – nine methods had 25% or more services unsure about the results (in terms of raising their profile, at least). This implies that methods are used, quite widely/frequently, based on evidence/advice from other contexts, or on intuition, rather than local evidence for their effectiveness. This may be unavoidable and may also represent good judgement calls, but it would be helpful if the profession developed assessment methods.

Do services know what their profile is with Members?

Some aspects of the relationship with Members are quite well understood, other aspects are generally unknown. There is scope for work by the profession to clarify measures for image and reputation, and to develop methods to monitor them. Services generally know about volume of business and which Members use them. Most have intelligence on how Member view their service – often from surveys – and a large minority go further in requesting feedback and conducting interviews or similar exercises. They are rather less likely to know what their research is used for, or how useful it is, or specifically what their image and reputation is amongst Members. (A Member may be very satisfied with a service but nevertheless consider it as low profile and of relatively low value for their work – those positions are not incompatible). The effectiveness of activities to raise the profile, to promote the service, is measured only by a small minority – so the ratings for ‘effectiveness’ in the survey seem to be based on informal assessment rather hard evidence. Again, there is scope for the profession to develop common methods to address this.

Special promotional methods for a new parliament

This is near-universal. Responses underlined the finding that more personal forms of contact with Members are likely to get better results. The other main conclusion in this area is that it may help to delay the approach to new Members until some time into their term, when they have dealt with the initial challenges of the new role and may be more receptive to the research offer.

What do services think is valuable in their offer to Members?

The responses here expressed important professional beliefs, and reflect the standard, historical, professional view that research services are of unquestioned value to Members. It is not at all clear, however, that this is how clients or potential clients see things. And it is the client that determines value, not the supplier. Demonstrating to Members that your service delivers value seems the critical point of an effective marketing strategy. Identifying what Members consider valuable, and mapping your service’s offer onto that, is an essential first step. Practical work on value will be the subject of posts in a new series later in 2022.

Do services have a marketing strategy?

No service has a formal marketing strategy, according to the responses. As the ‘IFLA Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services‘ points out “Research services…operate in a…competitive environment where analytical contributions can come from multiple sources, both internal and external to parliaments” (page 33). ‘Marketing’ provides methods to analyse and operate in a competitive environment. So it is surprising that marketing is not more of an explicit interest amongst research services.

Services probably already have an implicit strategy with goals and actions that are not expressed as ‘marketing’. It should help to focus explicitly on marketing: analysing their current situation, how they want to improve it and what measurable objectives and performance they are aiming at. Using the tools and methods of marketing strategy should help in creating a working strategy to raise a service’s profile.

Ways of building a strategy should become part of the common knowledge of the profession. IFLAPARL, regional associations and the IPU could help promote marketing methods and performance measures. They might also help share experience and results of using different promotional methods and of innovations.

Some operational conclusions – how services might use the survey results

  1. For a service starting out in profile raising, or one reviewing its effort, it looks like a good choice would be to focus on any and every method which brings the service into direct personal contact with the Member and/or their staff.
  2. There is a place for the classic promotional methods of emails, leaflets etc; and publishing and display of products – but this research suggests it is not enough on its own.
  3. If there is an opportunity to work with parliamentary committees, take it.
  4. It is worth investing outside the institution – networking, work in professional bodies, international cooperation, parliamentary strengthening projects etc – as this is believed to have benefits in internal reputation, as well as other direct and indirect benefits.
  5. There are some little-used methods that might repay an investment, and – given the lack of any guaranteed winning method – innovation in new methods could also be worth trying. Take a look at what other services are doing – is there something unusual worth trying in your service?
  6. In a new parliament, can your approach be personal? Is it worth delaying the main promotional effort until after Members have settled in?
  7. If you are going to invest in raising your service profile, why not spend some time on a strategy and plan, at least so everyone in the team knows what the objectives are and you can measure your progress?

And finally…

I hope that this report has illuminated how services are raising their profile and has identified some options for good practice as well as some questions for the future. This study cannot answer if it is worth investing in profile raising. If your service is already adequately valued then perhaps not. Under-valuation is, however, a frequent complaint, at least in private, and an obstacle to services fulfilling their potential.

Thanks to IPU for their support and to IFLAPARL for facilitating the survey through its mailing list. Thanks so much to all the respondents who took time to answer. Neither IPU nor IFLAPARL have any responsibility for the content, and the respondents have no responsibility either (other than for the direct quotations).

Iain Watt


April 2022

This concludes the ‘Raising the Profile’ survey report

All posts on ‘Raising the Profile’

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations

Service Charters for parliamentary research services


A ‘service charter’ sets out what clients can expect, in terms of practical service delivery and in terms of the standards and values the service aspires to. This post is based on the IFLA/IPU guidelines for parliamentary research services and on responses to an appeal for examples to the IFLAPARL mailing list in March 2022.

What the IFLA/IPU Guidelines say

The IFLA-IPU Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services* (the ‘Guidelines’) strongly promote the adoption of a ‘service charter’. The full text of the relevant chapter of the Guidelines appears at the end of the post.

In summary the reasoning is that:

“parliamentarians and the administration may…have different understandings about the nature and the extent of services to be offered by the research service. Establishing a Service Charter may help to reduce misunderstandings by formally stating the scope of services available”

Guidelines, p. 24

The Guidelines defines a service charter as

“a document that states what the research service will commit to provide to its parliamentary clientele. It includes the parameters that will guide how the products and services will be provided. Typically, it would spell out the services offered, who can access these services and the manner in which they are delivered…[Elements of a charter] include operating principles and descriptions of what is – or is not – within the scope of the research service. From this charter, it should be clear that:
• the research service is offered to support parliamentary duties only;
• there is no support for the educational or academic pursuit of a parliamentarian (or a member of
his or her family or staff); and
• personal financial, medical or legal advice will not be provided”

Guidelines, p. 24

It is not clear, so far, how widespread the use of ‘service charters’ is. Some services have, rather, ‘rules’ which are formally defined by their institution and these may well incorporate at least some of the recommended elements of a service charter. Publicly-available examples of charters and rules are accessible in the links below.

Examples of research service charters and rules

These are available in their original language. (NB Google Translate can provide auto translations even for complete files).

European Parliament – rules of the members’ research service (in English)

Greece – rules of procedure of the scientific service of the parliament (in Greek)

United Kingdom, library & research statement of services (in English)

Lithuania – formal procedure for requesting work by the research service (in Lithuanian)

New Zealand – library and research statement of services (in English)

Belgium – library & research service charter (in French) (in Dutch) (informal translation in English)

Thanks to all the colleagues who provided the examples above. Further examples are welcome! Thanks also to other colleagues who provided examples that are not publicly available, and for their feedback on the topic.

A summary of practice on service charters

What are the reasons for having a service charter?

  • Reduce risk of misunderstanding of what the service will do, for whom, for which purposes
  • Spell out what it will not do
  • Set service standards and manage expectations
  • Clarify the priorities for service
  • Promote the service and its specific products
  • Guide staff and management, and offer them some protection

So, while the most obvious purposes are to demonstrate the quality of the service and to manage the expectations of clients, there can be additional and less-explicit intentions to (a) set standards for staff performance (b) manage staff behaviour, reducing the risk over-delivery as well as under-delivery (c) protect staff and the service from excessive and inappropriate demands.

It is worth noting that at least one service went down the road of a service charter only to find their first version too detailed, difficult to apply consistently and a cause of inflexibility. They stepped back to a more aspirational (values-based) approach, more strategic and less operational. in their promise to clients. There is also the risk that, if promised standards are not consistently achieved, client satisfaction and service reputation might even be damaged by a charter. Adopting a service charter is not an automatic and risk-free step – with the undoubted benefits there is a potential downside. One mitigation is to be conservative in the promise to clients: better to promise less and deliver more than the reverse!

What form of service charter?

The main options in use are:

  • ‘Rules’, formally approved by the parliamentary authority. This gives the document force but it may be a slow process to get initial agreement and to make necessary updates later. There is always the risk of drafts being modified without full awareness of the operational consequences.
  • Guidelines set by the research service and translated into a communication to clients. This has the advantage of speed (to introduce and to revise) and coherence with service management – what is promised should be deliverable. But it lacks the force of Member decision.
  • Combination – Main principles in a formal ‘Rules’ but operational standards kept as service guidelines for flexibility.
  • Inspirational – A statement of the service’s purpose and commitment to certain values and to service quality. This might be stand-alone or might complement any of the three options above

Which option to choose?

The choice of option depends in part on the culture of the parliament concerned. In some, a set of ‘rules’ is the only format that will be acceptable, in others there is more flexibility.

It also depends on why the service wants a charter, for example

  • To set standards for staff
  • To make it easier to say ‘no’ to some requests
  • To promote your service and improve its image
  • How much flexibility you need
  • Do you need anyway to review and define your services, products and standards?

What goes into a service charter?

The list of potential inclusions is long. These are some of the main areas typically covered:

  • Why – The reason the service exists – mission / vision / values / the essence of what it offers Members and other clients. Essential features such as independence, impartiality, professionalism, confidentiality, and relevance to Members, are likely to be prominent.
  • What the service offers – the content, the different products and services.
  • Who the service is for (and by implication or explicitly: who cannot access it). Who can make active use (i.e. submit requests) and who can make passive use (i.e. access the published research products)
  • How the service is accessed, requested and delivered; description of the request & fulfilment process; if and how research products are published
  • When the service is available and how quickly it will respond
  • Exclusions, limits, priorities, conditions – services that are not offered; request types that are deemed inappropriate; limits to topics that are covered (e.g. only those under parliamentary jurisdiction); periods when requests will not be accepted (e.g. elections) limits to effort in response to requests; types of request and client that will take priority, especially in times of high demand; number of simultaneous requests from an individual Member; what research is kept confidential and what is published; conditionalities – e.g. if delivery depends on third parties outside the service’s control (e.g. it requires receipt of information from a government department) then deadlines may be flexible
  • Commitments, e.g. client satisfaction, confidentiality; impartiality; ethics; quality of content, personnel and processes
  • What is expected of the client – a sensitive point, possibly, but some set limits on how clients may use research (e.g. rules about misleading representation) and how they behave in relation to staff and to other clients.

* ‘Guidelines for parliamentary research services’, Copyright © Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), 2015.

The sections of the Guidelines on ‘Adopting a Service Charter’, ‘Managing demands through a Service Charter’ and ‘Sharing the content of a Service Charter’.

‘Raising the profile’ / 8. Do services have a marketing strategy?

Do services have a formal marketing strategy?

What is a marketing strategy? To take a simple definition from Investopedia “A marketing strategy refers to a business’s overall game plan for reaching prospective consumers and turning them into customers of their products or services. A marketing strategy contains the company’s value proposition, key brand messaging, data on target customer demographics, and other high-level elements. A thorough marketing strategy covers ” the four P’s” of marketing—product, price, place, and promotion”. This definition would need some adaptation to a parliamentary research service environment, but considered broadly on those terms, no service reported that they had a marketing strategy.

It is quite likely that services have forms of marketing objectives and measures in their plans and toolkits but do not yet see them as ‘marketing’.

There should, nevertheless, be concern that services have an interest in ‘raising their profile’, or at least taking steps to ensure that Members are aware of them and use them – and they seem to have no defined strategy to achieve this. The absence of strategy does not necessarily mean inaction but it may mean that there is no measure of success. How much effort is justified, what are the exact goals, how do we know if we are effective?

Most services responded with a simple negative or no answer. Hungary described a process of marketing planning for new parliaments; one service described a continuous cyclical process of product promotion, review and revision/innovation; the service in Pakistan relies on its products/services to market themselves by quality/relevance; and New Zealand reported that they were working on a marketing strategy – it would be interesting to hear more about it.


“We do not have general strategy, but before the beginning of a new parliamentary term we always build a particular strategy. We will have elections in spring 2022 and we are already working in promotion: – We are already working on our special publication (Infoscope). – We are planning to launch a new product-line: statistical dashboard on the intra- and internet with interactive infographics and already working on the concept, ordered the software and train the staff (a small group first). – We are planning a leaflet for sure, as we left out in 2018 and missed it later on. – Recently we have finished the survey among MPs and the further promotion strategy is depend on the results (e.g. use of social media, topics of the first interactive infographics on the dashboard). The details of the promotion is going to be elaborated by a working group in January.”

Pakistan – ‘Our Work is Our Marketing’

Anonymised response –

“Four phases seen as an endless circle: 1. Promotion; 2. Monitoring; 3. ‘Feed in’; 4. ‘Products and services’ adaptation; 1. Promotion; 2. Monitoring; and so on… At 3: systematic reporting on client usage; trends in use and in feedback; improved or new ways to support Members’ needs; gathering intelligence on lesser used services; new/improved or tailored client trainings; identifying opportunities for product placement at Member and Group (online) events; feed-back-in references to our products for staff awareness. At 4: Developing new or improved products and services; evaluating the existing range of products and services in view of their relevance for clients and recommend appropriate actions (align priorities, adapt or abolish products)”

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:


Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings and recommendations

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies


‘Raising the profile’ / 7. What is the value to Members?

What do you see as the value of your service to Members – what are the key features that you promote?

In summary, from the responses below, these three elements are seen as valuable to Members:

  1. Quality of information and service delivery: High quality information, evidence, that comes from good sources and is current, objective and impartial, delivered in good time. Professional capability to analyse & summarise. Independence of the service. A trustworthy and reliable source of information.
  2. Customised service: Ability to deliver information that is otherwise hard to find; ability to analyse information to meet Member needs.
  3. Confidentiality: Requests and the identity of the Member making a request are kept confidential. (Responses to requests are also confidential – but the content may be re-used in a different format).

These three points are highly worthy and (obviously) important from a professional viewpoint and in terms of functionality. But do they relate to ‘value’ for Members? If they did, research services would be overwhelmed with demand and would be powerful departments in their parliaments. The anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not always so; and that there are widespread concerns about how known and appreciated parliamentary research (and library) services are amongst their Members.

This survey report is not the place to go into detail on the issue of value – it will be considered in a separate post. It was explored in the case of the European Parliament already ore than ten years ago and that work can be reviewed here. Some lessons were

  • Our, professional, valuation of ‘information’ is not the same as that of most Members – or many other people. We consider high-quality information as a gold-standard rare asset necessary for serious decision-making, whereas for most people information is a commodity that can be obtained from many sources; and much decision-making has to be on ‘good-enough’ rather than perfect information. We think Members should value high-quality information but often that offer does not resonate with them.
  • Members may also have easy and quick access to information – from their own staff, other Members, party staff, lobbyists, pressure groups, personal contacts. This information is far more accessible and personalised than most research services can achieve. The sources may themselves use the research service, but that may be unknown to the Member. If the Member does not have the time or wish to read much original material themselves, then an offer of ‘high-quality information’ will not resonate and whatever contribution the research service is making will not be valued.

What is the solution? Well, a couple of the responses below refer to the usefulness of the information provided in the practical achievement of a Member’s parliamentary work. That is more likely to resonate with a Member. We need to approach ‘value’ from the point of view of the client, the Member, rather than from our viewpoint as a professional supplier. What is valuable to a Member is something that can help them be successful in their parliamentary work: make an impact on policy, persuade their fellow-Members, connect better with citizens etc. If the ‘value proposition’ of the research service is expressed in those kind of terms then there is a chance it will resonate with Members.

Another solution is to address the ‘cost to the client’ of the research service offer. Value is basically utility minus cost to the client. Services have focused on product quality and perhaps not enough on utility and especially cost to the client. Just because the service has no direct financial cost to the Member it does not make it cost-free. Can services reduce costs to the Member to improve the value of their offer?


Malawi – We promote use of evidence in parliamentary debate

Argentina – I think that users value the fact that the information we provide comes always from official and reliable sources. They place value in that we provide impartial and objective information. We promote official and up-to-date information, making sure it is as complete as it can be

Slovakia – “Ability to provide high quality information that is difficult to gather and analyse (e.g. providing comparative analysis on legal regulations in other countries). Cost-effective performance – i.e. ability to professionally cope with more than 300 domestic and foreign requests per a year with just 8 researchers”

New Zealand – “Providing timely and impartial information to help them in their work as Members”

Uganda – “A trusted, dependable and objective source of evidence for strengthening Parliament”

Hungary – “I am convinced the best promotion is providing a product itself. We promote our product lines we provide pro- and reactively (on demand) as well. Providing proactive papers are an effective way to increase demand”

Finland – Analyses, calculations, facts: Members have a service which makes and finds these on whatever subject: evidence-based policy

Pakistan – “Our primary emphases are Research, Legislative, Capacity Building and Public outreach services to Hon MPs. Key features include (a) Research on Demand Program delivering in-time papers which are balanced, non-partisan and follow contemporary research methodology; (b) We have anticipated products such as PIPS Parliamentary Research Digest that is now the most read parliamentary publication in the country, which is send every month to 1500 readers including all Members of National Parliament and provincial (state) assemblies where each issue comprises of researched analysis on three current issues in addition to latest statistics on economy, climate change, covid19, defence, population, health, education and various imperative sectors useful to MPs work. (c) Holding Roundtables on imperative policy areas and current developments e.g foreign policy, Afghanistan Issue, Regional Security, Educational standards, air quality and even parliamentary reforms (d) Legislative Assessment of bills under consideration and Post Legislative Scrutiny of existing laws. (e) Orientation and Knowledge Sharing Sessions on Parliamentary Business and relevant issues for local and international Hon MPs. (f) MPs face to face talk with students, women and civil society including people with disabilities, labor and local body representatives”

Anonymised responses

  • Independence and objectivity, timeliness and relevance, client-orientation and responsiveness, comprehensiveness of our offer, personalised service, ease of accessibility in-house, outside and ‘on the go’ (mobile).
  • Updated information, quick answers and personalised advice.
  • Parliamentary groups request studies on the subjects they wish to get covered and the research service provides them with the requested information. This ability to request information and which key points they want to cover is what we want to promote
  • Legal-technical elaboration of draft laws, response to highly specific legal/constitutional questions
  • Independent and impartial research that is customised to the needs of MPs
  • Members using evidence to argue their points when debating
  • Our key feature is how responsive we are to the specific needs of members and their staff. Our research is provided in a timely, discreet way. We provide a tailored service by attempting to answer all questions that are asked by Members and their staff in the time frame that they require.
  • The experience of the service and the staff, the usefulness of the information provided in the legislative activity of the members of parliament.
  • Amending legislation and argumentation for the debates
  • As a source of independent, neutral, non-partisan and timely analysis
  • Independence, Transparency, Reliability and objectivity
  • We are an impartial, professional and user-oriented service. We ensure rapid processing of requests. We guarantee the confidentiality of the identity of the requesting user and the information we provide. We closely respect the privacy of the user.

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:

Results in detail. Part 8 – Marketing strategies

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations

‘Raising the profile’ / 6. Special activities for a new parliament

Marketing measures for a new parliament

Seventeen of twenty-two (77%) respondents mentioned some kind of activity aimed at Members in a new parliament; only one specifically said they did nothing. It is a near universal phenomenon.


“Induction program and briefing books on how the Parliament works”. The briefing books “are distributed among all MPs and their assistants by email and in hard copy before or right after the Constituent Session of the Parliament. These are the handbook Practical Guide to the Work of the Member of Parliament, publication called How the Parliament Works and monolingual explanatory dictionary of commonly used terms called Short Parliamentary Dictionary. The induction programme for newly elected MPs and their assistants is organised by the department of the research service and “One of the topics covered in these seminars is the presentation of parliamentary administration including the roles and responsibilities of the research service. Last year after the parliamentary elections of 29 February 2020, due to the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditionally organized introductory seminars for the MPs and their assistants were held online in an innovative way using modern technologies through a series of narrated presentations available on the intranet (internal network) of the Chancellery. These presentations provided practical information on the legislative process, oversight function of the Parliament, the competence of the Parliament in the EU affairs, the position of the Chancellery, and the scope of the Department of the Parliamentary Institute and its units. When playing the video-presentation there was not only the possibility to see individual slides of the presentation but also to listen to the lecturer’s commentary with explanations, demonstrations, and answers to practical aspects of parliamentary work (e.g. how to submit a draft law or interpellation). With the release of epidemic measures in summer 2020, the Department organized additional in-person seminars for parliamentary groups, tailor-made to their needs”.


(a) “At the beginning of the term of each Knesset [parliament of Israel], the Knesset organizes general training sessions for the new MKs [Members] in order to introduce them to the work of the Knesset and its various units. One of these sessions is devoted to the RIC [Knesset Research & Information Centre], and in it the Director of the RIC and the Head of the Budgetary Control Department (which is part of the RIC) impart information on the Center, our various products and services and how to request them.” (b) “After the inauguration of the current Knesset, the RIC organized further training sessions for MKs, dedicated to specific topics, such as education, employment, budget etc. Each session was
instructed by the relevant RIC Team Leader and researchers, and gave the participating MKs insight
into the basics of each topic, as well as to the importance of the professional services which they
can receive from the RIC for their parliamentary activities.” (c) “At the beginning of each Knesset term the Director of the RIC also sets up personal meetings with each of the new MKs. Each meeting is specifically planned to include the Team Leaders with expertise in the specific topics that each MK is likely to focus on during his/her tenure. Similar meetings are also set up between each new Committee Chair, the RIC Director and the relevant Team Leader.” In addition, the Head of Information Services in the RIC meets each new assistant [presumably new arrivals during the term as well as at the beginning of the parliament – IW] “in order to make sure they are aware of the products and services available from the RIC, guidelines for requests, the RIC Service Charter, etc.”

In New Zealand, they noted that induction activities at the very beginning may not work too well for research services – Members minds are focused on other matters. They are more receptive a little way into their term:

“Parliamentary Service runs an expo type induction event for new Members over a few days. The Library has a booth at this event. New Members at this point are receiving a lot of information on all aspects of Parliament and are most interested in IT arrangements, setting up electorate offices and finance matters. The Library endeavours to talk to the new MPs at this time, but they are often distracted. Six weeks after the election we contact new Members and offer to provide a one-on-one induction to let them know how the Library can help them and set up alerts and news monitoring services for them. We find at this stage; Members are often still not at a stage where they are interested in Library services. After the 2020 election, for some Members we did this one-on-one induction several months after they had been elected and at this point, they were very receptive”. The New Zealand service has also moved to a more personalised form of policy briefing for new Members: “We’ve also produced research briefs around election time that we use to promote our research skills to new MPs. Following the 2011 and 2014 elections a publication with a selection of research briefs was sent to each MP. However in recent elections we’ve moved away from a print publication, and while we still produced some research briefs, we’ve focussed on using individual briefs in inductions with new Members”.


“Early in each new Parliament, we communicate the many ways we can support new and returning parliamentarians with their work, emphasizing the research support we provide to parliamentary committees and associations as well as our customized research services to individual parliamentarians by sending a letter of welcome to parliamentarians, by participating in service fairs managed by the administrations of the Senate and the House, and by sending a series of timely newsletters that introduce our products and services to clients”. 


“holding 2-3 days New Members Orientation on working with the Parliament at the Institute along with publications customised in [English and the local language] helps make early inroads to introduce [the research service] as MPs own research and capacity building facility; It takes good few months of preparation so that it is done professionally and MPs naturally get attracted towards the non-partisan service where they can [look for] any parliamentary service or product they need during their tenure as MPs”


“At the beginning of each new Legislative Session, our office contacts Deputies and Senators in order to inform them about the services we provide exclusively to them, their advisors and work teams. At present, we are working on a publication for new Senators and Deputies regarding the functioning of Parliament”


“Induction of Members on the use of research services and face to face engagements” and the “research week”.


“An information package for the MPs at the beginning of a new term” consisting of “a leaflet on our services – (previously) on office usable gadget (e.g. notepad, pen-drive) with logo and contact information”. In 2018 and for the forthcoming (2022) parliamentary term: a “Special publication with an overview of policy issues for a newly-elected parliament” (titled ‘Infoscope’ and based on the “Key issues” publication of the UK House of Commons Library)


“Training sessions [for] new Members and their staff as a part of the general introduction programme”

Anonymised responses include:

  • We prepare resources for all new members and provide these in an informal setting that permits one-on-one discussions between members and our staff. This is complemented by a structured presentation and overview of our services to new members and meetings between the Director/senior staff and new members if required. To summarise, we attempt to meet directly with every new member at the commencement of each parliamentary term and discuss our service in a one-on-one setting. We also prepare and provide materials to new members and ensure all members have, at least, attended the presentation/overview of our service.
  • Presentation of services to groups of Members – but also individually – as well as to their assistants. Introductory training sessions on Research Service and Library products and services by policy area (‘knowledge sources info sessions)’ – but they continue throughout the term. Interviews with Members.
  • To contact them and their groups offering and explaining our services.
  • At the beginning of every parliamentary term, the research service compiles…a book [with] practical information on various subjects such as rights and duties of MPs, how to register in the plenary voting system, what products are available and where to find them, absences, insurance, legislative procedure, electronic equipment…”  “one copy is given to every MP” whether new to the parliament or a returning Member. In addition, the research service – with the publishing department – “publishes and provides all MPs [with] up-to-date relevant parliamentary legislation”
  • We do a short presentation on the Research Service at the start of a new parliament, and we invite new members to have individual meetings to discuss what the research service can offer
  • Production of brochures describing the activities of the [research service] and the practical procedures for requesting documentary material. Online training with parliamentary assistants of new members of parliament and other parliamentary bodies (political groups, committees, etc.) with a concrete presentation of the research service’s database…etc
  • Presentation of services to groups of Members

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:

Results in detail. Part 7 – What is the value to Members?

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations

‘Raising the profile’ / 5. Respondents comments on methods


This post highlights some of the comments made by services about the methods they employ.

In a comment that illustrates a reality which we will return to later, one respondent noted sadly

“The main problem is the lack of interest of the members”.

This does not mean all Members, all of the time, but many if not all services must experience it with at least some Members and some of the time. The comments were, however, generally more optimistic in tone, picking out some methods that worked for particular services.

Get personal to get results

The Ugandan experience illustrates that personal contact is the best guarantee of success

“Face to face interactions with MPs through a platform like research week produces immediate results through increasing the number of research requests”

As one respondent noted:

“The more tailored to Members’ personal needs and to their and policy area(s) the more successful are promotional actions”.

Another highlighted that:

“direct engagement with members and their staff have proven to be successful in establishing and developing our relationships with members”

New Zealand has formalised the personal approach with a system of account managers:

“The 120 Members have been divided equally between the four Senior Library Service Advisors who aim to contact a Members office, in some way, three times a year. Each Senior Library Service Advisor has 30 Members that they are responsible for. This contact might be through a phone call or a personal visit and might be to the member themselves, someone in their on-site Parliament office, or someone in their electorate office. The contact will be tailored to fit the relationship we have with that office. It might be promoting a particular product or service, talking about some way we can help that office, or seeking feedback on the Library services we have provided in the last three months”.

In many parliaments there is an effort to contact Members at the start of their term, but the service in New Zealand also does this at mid-term:

“Midway through the Parliamentary term we contact Members’ offices and offer to visit them to show them how we can help them and to check whether their alerting services are working well for them”. The personal approach is applied also to staff working for Members – in this case, staff working remotely in constituency offices: “[we provide] a research service to all these offices, but unfortunately not everybody who works in them is aware that they can use us, or what we can do for them. Over the last two years we have been putting more effort into promoting our services to people who work in these offices. We have found that they like a personal approach, so we have been video calling or Zooming them and, in some cases, sharing our screens with them to show them some of the resources they can use”. Beyond individual Members and their staff, the research service has also targeted the staff in parliament of political parties through “a promotional project which we are calling: From research to policy and legislation. We plan to give this presentation to research staff in party leaders’ offices. The presentation will show the different skills within the Library that we can use to help Members investigate a policy area. For example, we can produce maps and charts, do historical research, do cross jurisdictional research, dig into government department data and do legal analysis”. Less formal approaches to target clients have proved effective in the New Zealand context: “[pre-COVID] we have held morning teas for Members’ staff who work on the Parliamentary precinct. These were held in the beautiful historic reading room of our Library building and are very well attended. We serve hot drinks and food, and it’s a way to make contact with these clients in a social setting”. Apparently informal discussions have also been used as a formal method to understand client ways of working and their satisfaction with the service: “Customer Voice sessions involve selected customers talking to Library staff about how they use our services. The customers are given a list of questions and topics before the session. The customers talk about what their work involves and how the Library helps them, and what we could do better”. [The ‘Library’ includes the research service in New Zealand].

Canada has created specialist roles for personal outreach to Members:

Library ambassadors meet with parliamentary clients to explore how we can support them with their work, overviewing how to access our research publications, our specialized tools, and our customized research services. Library ambassadors are employees who are recruited from all areas of the organization and are trained to deliver clear, compelling briefings to clients. A program coordinator monitors the frequency and number of briefings delivered to clients, ensuring that the Library reaches out to all parliamentary offices at regular intervals throughout each Parliament”. 

In Finland they have found one of the best ways to promote the service is training sessions for:

“individual Members, groups of Members, Member’s staff and parliamentary group officers”

The response from Israel indicated the multiple benefits of an in-person approach:

“Upon receiving a request for information or research from a MK [Member], the relevant Team Leader (and sometimes also the researcher) will meet with the MK (in person if possible) in order to coordinate expectations, i.e. to understand more clearly what the MK wants to find out and what he/she plans to do with the research in order to match the end product to the needs of the MK. Besides focusing the research on what the MK really needs, the RIC can also explain methodological difficulties, if relevant, and suggest other possible means of achieving similar results. Thus, with regard to raising awareness to the RIC [Research & Information Centre], these meetings allow the RIC to introduce the MKs to different types of products and services available to them from the RIC”. In addition, in “the past year we have launched a new venture aiming to receive better feedback from MKs and PAs regarding research prepared for them by the RIC. This project is based on oral conversations with MKs and PAs (instead of an automated online form which we had used in the past to receive feedback). These conversations follow a loose outline of questions on the research but also serve as an opportunity to suggest other types of RIC products and services available to the MK in the future”.

Reach Members at the start of their parliamentary career

Along with training sessions, the other method found to work well In Finland to promote the research service is

“direct messages to new Members when they start their work”

In Pakistan, they believe that

“Holding of New Members Orientation…[is one of] the most important way you assist MPs in their practical contribution for constituents and at the same time it helps you market your services”

Another respondent put the case for focusing on new Members:

“Our most active promotional periods are often at the commencement of a new Parliament, where our service aims to ensure new members are introduced to our research as soon as possible. This has consistently helped to [establish] effective working relationships…”

Be proactive in research (publication)

In Hungary

“providing proactive papers [increases] the demand for individual (tailor-made) requests….[Our] promotional letter on proactive papers very often [generates] a request for a paper of the same type on [a] different topic”.

Slovakia also reports an increase in demand following proactive papers. They publish proactive research in three versions – Comparative analysis, Information paper and Factsheet –

“that are distributed among all MPs and their assistants by email. Several hardcopies are also available in MPs’ saloon where MPs spent time during the plenary session breaks. These research papers are focused on topical issues discussed in the Parliament or in society (for example, comparative analysis relevant to a particular draft law)”     

Go outside to have an impact inside

For several reasons, external communication of research work can (eventually) reach people inside the parliament who are not reached by internal communication. Impact externally can also enhance the message internally – adding credibility and value to research products. It can be a highly effective strategy. The research service in Israel reported four methods to reach external audiences as well as internal ones:

“For the past few years the RIC has been publishing a monthly newsletter edited by the Head of Information Services. The newsletter highlights a selection of recent documents prepared in the RIC in the past month and other items of interest, such as new types of products available from the RIC. It is sent to a wide ranging mailing list which includes all MKs, PAs, committee secretariats, government offices and many others in- and out-side the Knesset.

In the past year we have also launched a podcast (“Research in Three Readings”) in which researchers discuss specific papers which they prepared, their conclusions and lessons learned. Each new episode of the podcast is also sent to a wide audience (and can also be found on the RIC webpage and on all the leading podcast platforms).

There are also various other RIC products which are sent to a wide audience such as studies, briefings and special infographics prepared for special days in the Knesset (e.g. International Women’s Day, World Environment Day, Universal Children’s Day, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, etc.)

In 2018 the Knesset Administration decided to assign spokespersons to various Knesset units, as part of the Knesset’s continuing promotion of increased transparency. Thus, the RIC has a dedicated spokesperson who receives all new research produced by the RIC, and acts as a liaison between the RIC and various press representatives in order to facilitate media coverage of RIC research related to topics on the public agenda. This coverage is another means of exposing our research to other MKs. The RIC Spokesperson can also cooperate with MKs (and their PAs) in increasing media coverage of specific RIC research prepared at their request.”

The value of international relations

The Hungarian case illustrates one way in which international connections have a positive effect on service reputation:

“they are extremely useful for me, as a manager and for the whole service in service-development. In relation of effectiveness, as you defined (..more demand for it from Members) they affect indirectly, via the service development, based on the best practices we learned from others”. International engagement is also about giving advice and sharing experience, and that can be a process that develops the trainer as well as the trainee – as well as enhancing the reputation of the service.”

Slovakia gives an impression of activities of this kind:

“the Parliamentary Institute continuously maintains contacts with partner parliaments and since 2004, it has been involved in parliamentary development cooperation, especially for the Western Balkan countries, but also for other countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Moldova, Kazakhstan, etc. It organizes various (mainly ad hoc) seminars, workshops, and study visits for the beneficiary parliaments to strengthen their institutional capacity and to assist in building legislative, information, analytical, library, and archival services in partner parliaments. These activities are funded either by the European Union, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), or through SlovakAid programs and activities, or other donors. Experts from the Department of the Parliamentary Institute provide consultations, lectures and make recommendations for streamlining the activities of partner parliaments and their administrations”.

Let the products do the talking

In Pakistan, they believe that service quality is the best promotion

“Timely delivery of products and research products with balanced, non partisan and independent analysis, builds trust of Hon Members of Parliament (MPs) who then go on to utilize the services as regular users/clients”.

The service in Slovakia made a similar point:

“When raising the profile of a parliamentary research service, the corner stone is to give information of high quality, which is accurate, evidence-based supported by various primary and secondary sources of information with references in footnotes, and provided in timely manner (either within the deadline specified in the request or before the plenary debate on the respective topic, in our case it is usually before the second reading).”

Classic methods: newsletters, emails and leaflets; intranet & internet

The classic promotional activities are newsletters, emails and leaflets and they are widely used. The service in Slovakia gave an example:

Newsletter of the Department of Parliamentary Institute – biannually published overview bulletin, providing information on the activities of the Parliamentary Institute for the past period (usually half a year). See an example here:”

The service in Canada also offers a description of some classic methods, including an intranet site. (Intranet and internet sites have been widely used for a decade and more – enough to be considered ‘classic’!).

“We send regular newsletter updates to parliamentarians with information on our products, programs, and services including announcements of new research resources and reminders of how to access our research services. Each time a new research publication is published, we distribute an email notification to clients who have subscribed with a link and a brief description of the new publication. We announce new and particularly timely research tools or publications series via communiqués to parliamentary clients. For example, we distributed a communiqué to announce the launch of a new series of research publications on topics related to COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic. At any time, parliamentary clients can learn about our research services and access our specialized research tools, including our catalogue, on our intranet for clients. At the beginning of the 44th Parliament, we created access points to specific research tools and publications, as well as a link to a page with more information about our research services, on our intranet homepage”. In Canada they also use digital banners, perhaps not so common in parliamentary websites: “We promote specific aspects of our research publications series using digital banners on our public website and intranet for clients, as well as on our media walls in Library branches”.   

Partnership with library & information services

In Israel, the research service is partnered in the same unit with an information service which, amongst other roles, works to ensure that the research offer is known:

“The Head of Information Services in the RIC is in charge of day to day contact with the MKs [Members] and their Parliamentary Advisors (PAs). She meets with each new PA in order to make sure they are aware of the products and services available from the RIC, guidelines for requests, the RIC Service Charter, etc. She also is in charge of distributing various RIC products and other information to all MKs and PAs”.

Integrating research products with other forms of library and information content is probably widespread as a method of increasing use and awareness of the research function.

Be where the Members are

In New Zealand, library & research staff actively went out to the office and gathering places of Members and their staff:

“Following suggestions from clients, we undertook regular floor-walking visiting MP offices. We tried to link floor-walking to the launch of a specific product, or event, and found it worked well if we had something to give to our customers such as a brochure, invitation or chocolate to build the conversation around. We also trialled a library pop-up near the parliamentary café, promoting our collections and services, and have also staffed a central drop-in area called Ātea where all the teams supporting MPs and their staff are available to answer queries”.

The research service in Slovakia ensures its print publications are displayed in the lounge of the Members.

Social media – limited appetite

Although ‘going outside to have an impact inside’ is a tried and tested method, social media was not a frequent choice. In Hungary, for example:

“our MPs expressed [that they had] no need for social media…[in] the regular survey [of clients held] at the end of each parliamentary term”.

Social media are used in some places, and certainly is appreciated in some. The service in Canada is one user:

“We regularly provide information and updates about our research publications and services on our corporate Twitter account (@LibraryParlCA | @BiblioParlCA). We also draw attention to the work done by our research experts on our corporate LinkedIn account (Library of Parliament | Bibliothèque du Parlement)”.   

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:

Results in detail. Part 6 – Special activities for a new parliament

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations

‘Raising the profile’ / 4. Methods identified as effective

Which methods were considered ‘highly effective’?

No single method was considered ‘highly effective’ by more than half of respondents. The only one to achieve a ‘highly effective’ rating from 50% of respondents was “Presentation of the service to Members individually, interviews with Members“.

The methods with the most ratings as ‘highly effective’ are below. These were rated ‘highly effective’ by more than 33% of respondents.

Five methods most often rated as ‘highly effective’

  1. Presentation of the service to Members individually, interviews with Members
  2. Presentation of services to groups of Members
  3. Personal meeting with Member when they request research
  4. Training/induction for staff of Members in how to use the research service, benefits of research
  5. Promotional emails – newsletters, adverts etc

The list above indicates the (presumed) ‘wisdom of the crowd’ – it picks out methods which are fairly widely used and highly-rated. It can also be interesting to consider the methods which are less widely used but are nonetheless highly rated by those who deploy them. Taking into account only the ratings by users of a method, the methods below are rated as ‘highly effective’ by at least 50% of them. Three items are shared with the previous list (italicised), but three new items come into focus.

Six methods rated as ‘highly effective’ by those who use them

  1. ‘Open Day’ or ‘Research week’ events
  2. Presentation of the service to Members individually, interviews with Members
  3. Propose in-person discussion to get feedback when research is delivered to a Member
  4. Training/induction for staff of Members in how to use the research service, benefits of research
  5. Personal meeting with Member when they request research
  6. Presentation of the service in Committee meetings.

The first is the most striking – relatively little used (32% of respondents) but highly-rated by five out of the seven users.

Which methods have some effect for all services that use them?

Only three methods were felt to have some effect by all services that used them:

  • Presentation of the service in Committee meetings
  • Request for feedback by form when research is delivered to a Member
  • Presence of research staff in Committee meetings

Only some services are involved with committees so this area of work is somewhat downplayed by the results from the full survey. But it is very important for those who do work with committees. The return from Israel gives a flavour: “When a researcher from the RIC [Research & Information Centre] has prepared a study or briefing in preparation or as background for a committee meeting, the researcher is present in the committee meeting and typically also presents the main findings from his/her work at the beginning of the meeting; this also exposes other MKs in the committee to our products. In cases when no specific research has been prepared for a committee meeting, the RIC can send the committee previous papers or other relevant information based on the acquired experience, expertise and knowledge of the topic, and often the relevant researcher can also present in the committee meeting in these situations”.

For which methods is it ‘difficult to know’ the results?

All other methods had some users who were in doubt about their effect – they found it difficult to know the result. The nine methods below had at least least 25% of their users in doubt as the results:

  1. Surveys of Members (38% of users found it difficult to know the results in terms of profile-raising)
  2. Common visual identity for all products and promotional materials – same ‘look and feel’ (35%)
  3. Provides parliamentary strengthening support to other parliaments (32%)
  4. Branding on all research products (29%)
  5. External engagement/publication by staff research experts (29%)
  6. Promotional videos (29%)
  7. Promotional gadgets, clothing, bags etc (29%)
  8. Permanent displays of hard-copy research reports (25%)
  9. Publication of performance data for the research service (25%)

This does not mean that these methods are ineffective but simply that their use is based on external examples, advice or intuition – rather than concrete evidence of local results – by quite a high proportion of the services using them. Only one from this list (parliamentary strengthening) is in the top eight of methods used.

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:

Results in detail. Part 5 – Commentary by the respondents

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations

‘Raising the profile’ / 3. The most popular methods

These methods are used by 80%+ of respondents:

  1. Presentation of services to groups of Members
  2. Engagement of the service with wider research & professional networks
  3. Promotional emails – newsletters, adverts etc
  4. Research products published/accessible externally
  5. Provides parliamentary strengthening support to other parliaments
  6. Intranet site/pages dedicated to the research service
  7. Presentation of the service to Members individually, interviews with Members
  8. International cooperation with other research services, engagement with international professional bodies

These methods are used by less than 33% of respondents:

  1. Promotional videos
  2. Promotional gadgets, clothing, bags etc
  3. ‘Open Day’ or ‘Research week’ events
  4. Advisory board with Members, or similar advisory body
  5. Promotional audio clips, podcasts

The popular methods are not necessarily ranked highly for effectiveness, however. The responses were looked at in more detail to identify methods that were both widely used and credited with some effect on the profile of the service.

Ranking of methods by popularity + effectiveness

The various methods can be ranked according to their assessed effectiveness. Responses were scored 3 for ‘Highly effective’, 2 for ‘Moderate’, 1 for ‘Little or no impact’ and 0 for ‘Difficult to know’ or ‘Not in use’. This is one way to access the (presumed) wisdom of the crowd, as the result is affected by both the popularity of a method and its assessed effectiveness. Methods at the top of this ranking are widely used and are seen by many as contributing something to raising the profile of the service. Four of the top five methods, and six in total of the ten, concern some form of personal contact with Members or their staff. Three refer to internal and external publication of products and service information, and two refer to wider engagement by the service. Promotion of the service by emails, leaflets, display of products, websites with information and products – these are typically the first thought in ‘profile-raising’. They are indeed widely used and are seen as having some effect – but are not assessed the best solution. The two on wider engagement by the service are the least obvious for a ‘top ten’ and so perhaps the most interesting. A service engaging in wider professional networks and international cooperation is not directly promoting itself in-house, yet a number of respondents recognise such engagement as a fairly effective way to raise their profile.

The top ten by popularity + effectiveness

  1. Presentation of services to groups of Members
  2. Presentation of the service to Members individually, interviews with Members
  3. Promotional emails – newsletters, adverts etc
  4. Training/induction for staff of Members in how to use the research service, benefits of research
  5. Personal meeting with Member when they request research
  6. Research products published/accessible externally
  7. Training/induction for Members in how to use the research service, benefits of research
  8. Engagement of the service with wider research & professional networks
  9. International cooperation with other research services, engagement with international professional bodies
  10. Intranet site/pages dedicated to the research service

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:

Results in detail. Part 4 – methods identified as effective

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations

‘Raising the profile’ / 2. Main findings


This post gives an outline of the main findings; reflections on the findings are in the ‘Conclusions‘ post.

This post, and others, may be revised based on feedback and review. The results of the survey are being shared only with the respondents in the first instance, and your feedback on the report are very welcome. This and forthcoming posts with detailed results may be published more widely at a later date.

Main findings

Methods in use and their effectiveness

From a menu of forty possible methods, eight are used by 80%+ of respondents. These eight are not, however, all seen to be highly effective. An overall ranking based on popularity and rating for effectiveness identifies a top ten of methods: predominantly those involving direct personal contact with Members; some involving publication of products and service information; and some acting indirectly to build the reputation of the service.

Focusing only on users of particular methods, there are methods which are not widely widely used but are highly rated by those who deployed them. These minority choices might be seen as a partial corrective to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ identifying the most popular methods . The most striking example of this is ‘open days and research weeks’ – used by only seven services, but five of them rated it as ‘highly effective’.

Three methods were felt to have some effect by every service using them: two concerned work with Committees, the other was requesting feedback after work had been delivered.

By contrast, for many methods there is difficulty in knowing what impact they have – nine methods had 25% or more services unsure about the results (in terms of raising their profile, at least). For example, the method ‘Common visual identity for all products and promotional materials – same ‘look and feel” had 35% of users uncertain of its effectiveness. This implies that around one-third of use is not based on direct local evidence of effectiveness but on evidence/advice from other contexts, or on intuition.

What do services know about their profile with Members?

At least four out of five services know the volume of use by Members and which Members are regular clients. Just over 70% know which Members never use their service.

Far fewer claim to know how much their research is used and for what purposes.

Less than half of services claim to know what image Members have of their service. Less than 20% say they measure the impact of their promotional activities. Most services, however, do take steps to find out Member views (such as through surveys) and a large minority request feedback after delivering work and use interviews to get more detailed and personal intelligence.

Special methods for a new parliament

Almost every service reported taking special promotional measures for a new parliament. Once again, it may be that those using more personal forms of contact are getting better results. The other notable insight is that, in some parliaments, the immediate post-election period is not conducive to promoting research services – Members have other priorities – and an approach later in the term can be more productive.

What do services think is valuable in their offer to Members?

The responses here tended to be on the lines of ‘impartial service delivering high-quality objective information’.

Do services have a marketing strategy?

No service reported that they had a marketing strategy, recognisable as such. One service reported it was developing one, and other services reported approaches to marketing – but not a strategy.

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:

The results in detail beginning with Part 3 – the most popular methods

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations