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.

‘Account managers’ in parliamentary library & research services?

The concept of ‘account manager’ is well established in business – a role that gives the client a single point of contact with the organisation. Focusing communications allows a relationship to develop and the account manager can, therefore, calibrate service delivery to the needs of the particular client. For the client, the service has a more friendly face and a direct line of contact, in person or remotely. In a parliamentary setting, clients may be unaware of the full range of service offers and, depending on the structure, may find it daunting to work out what they can get from whom – so may look for apparently ‘quick and easy’ solutions elsewhere. An account manager can simplify the process of connecting the client with the relevant service offer, and so make it more likely that service will be requested and used.

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‘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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Getting the job you want – hints and tips on how to succeed in job applications



The download is a presentation with practical advice based on recruiting and being recruited through a career. It draws on experience in library & information, archives and research services and it refers to the typical processes used by large/public organisations. Smaller businesses might be different. Variants of this presentation proved useful to staff of different services and to students of Robert Gordon’s University, Aberdeen.

Candidates sometimes believe that the interview will be a personal conversation based on their application – sadly, not usually so. They also may believe it will be an unpredictable exchange and so they need to respond spontaneously rather than prepare – again, not so.

Metrics – the risks in using number of enquiries / research requests in parliaments

Services still fall into the trap of promoting as a metric the number of enquiries/requests they get. Or their administrations impose it. Partly it seems an obvious measure, partly it is deceptively easy to collect and describe. It is, therefore very tempting to use it, especially if the figure is improving. Increasing numbers are an attractive message when a service is starting or has tried to increase interest from clients. But it is a potentially dangerous trap to use as a long term performance measure. There are at least three good reasons why services should not offer request numbers as a measure of success.

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Managing ignorance – agnotology and knowledge management in parliamentary library & research services

‘Agnotology and knowledge management in parliamentary research services and libraries’

Paper for the ECPRD conference, September 2016 in Oslo, Norway



Knowledge management and ignorance

One possible reason for KM not fulfilling its promise is that it has not fully engaged with ignorance – what it is, how it functions, how it can be managed….

Introduction

Knowledge is clearly central to what parliamentary research and library services do: they deliver knowledge which parliamentarians can put to use. The discipline of ‘knowledge management’ (KM) is of obvious interest, and in the wider world there is a great deal of thoughtful reflection and IT solutions offered for KM, but it has never seemed to fulfil its early promise and really take-off, no more in parliaments than elsewhere. Why not? The genesis of this paper came during a presentation on the mismatch between parliamentary libraries and research services aimed at ‘full-information decision making’ and the reality where overloaded Members of parliament must, in many cases, make ‘fast and frugal’1 decisions. It was argued that such decision-making is highly effective and economical, whereas the “full-information” model is not feasible, economic or even appropriate – we elect Members to make political decisions, not act as scientists. It was for parliamentary services to diversify their delivery of knowledge beyond the classic quasi-academic (both library & research) to include also methods and products adapted to the real working styles of many Members.

This positive view of how Members work was challenged – very directly – by a colleague in a national parliament who, after decades of experience, felt that some Members in their parliament had no interest in any kind of objective, scientific input, no matter how well designed for their working habits. Those Members simply wanted to take politically-based decisions regardless of evidence or expertise. Is this sceptical view justified regarding (some) Members in general, and is there something in the supposed recent trend to ‘postfactual’ or ‘post-truth’ politics? Has expertise lost its real and symbolic value? And if ‘yes’ to these questions, is there a responsibility and a means for knowledge services to respond? What ethical challenges do we face in this environment? How can we better manage knowledge to help Members? This is a first and tentative look at these issues: the paper raises questions but does not offer many explicit answers….


Success does not equal value in parliamentary library & research services

‘Success does not equal value’, Computers in Libraries Conference 2013, Washington DC, USA



Despite considerable success on any professional view, and good professional metrics, the value of the library & analytical service of the European Parliament was still put in question by some Members. Clearly, we were misunderstanding something. In 2010/11 we decided to focus on value – what did it mean in a parliamentary context? And how could we increase our value added?

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