Case Study: POLIS and the UK's Knowledge Transfer Agenda
Does social science really matter and if it does under what conditions does it have a demonstrable impact on policy or the actions of real decision makers?
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on "Scientific Advice, Risk and Evidence Based Policy Making" raised this question and identified a range of obstacles to the use of social science beyond the academy. It specifically recommended that "This situation, where the RAE acts as a disincentive to engagement by the scientific community with policy, must be rectified in the successor to the RAE".
The ESRC therefore commissioned a study in early 2006 to find out if one of its largest investments in social science research, the £1million Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) from 1990-1994, had had real impact. The study was undertaken by Dr Charlie Dannreuther (POLIS) with experts contributions from Warwick, Cambridge, Sussex and Barclays Bank. It identified that the recalibration of Barclays Bank small business book according to characteristics of small business identified in the research helped save the bank from losing £1million a day in 1991 from small business loans. It also greatly improved the access of small firms and consumers to credit.
As well as contributing to the ESRC's current policy metrics, the findings were presented to a plenary at ISBE the world's largest SME research organisation, a workshop series bringing policy makers and researchers together and have contributed the data for a research paper and manuscript on Small Firm Finance and the Politics of Risk for Routledge.