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Classifying knowledge for policymaking

This policy brief, published by the Overseas Development Institute, explores how different types of knowledge feed into policymaking processes — based on case-studies in three South-East Asian countries — and suggests that classifying knowledge can be a useful way of promoting evidence-based decisions.

The complexity of policy processes means there is no simple way of using available science and research. And there are questions over which forms of knowledge — research to identify problems and solutions, for example, or participatory data gathering — are more suitable for informing policy.

Classifying knowledge can help researchers, and others who produce evidence, to better communicate what they know, says the brief. And it can help those who use knowledge appreciate the value of basing their decisions on a range of sources.

The authors explored this by developing a knowledge taxonomy based on the biological classification system created by Carl Linnaeus. They divided knowledge into evidence-based policy research and academic research, with each then branching out into sub-categories defined by research methods, sources, and the purpose of the research. The research purpose was then split into seven categories, which were used to evaluate the use of knowledge in three case-studies.

The analysis showed that different types of knowledge can be beneficial. In the Philippines, for example, a participatory data-gathering programme developed by a network of nongovernmental organisations helped to map out strategies and mobilise resources for goals set by local government groups in various sectors, including agriculture and human resource development. The process was replicated in various parts of the country — but scaling up and transforming governance proved to be challenging.

In Indonesia, 'one-stop-services' that provide easy access to information for businesses indicated that knowledge produced to identify problems can complement formal research and reduce opportunities for corruption. And in Vietnam, research evidence and citizen engagement successfully informed a government initiative to simplify administrative procedures.

The brief notes that additional types of knowledge can be included in the taxonomy developed in the study. It concludes that classifying knowledge into different types can help policymakers use different sources of information in decision-making.

Link to full policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute [199kB]

This policy brief was written by Arnaldo Pellini, from the Overseas Development Institute, United Kingdom, Maria Dolores Alicias, independent consultant based in the Philippines, Nguyen Thi Thu Hang, from the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, and Palmira Permata Bachtiar, from the SMERU Research Institute, Indonesia.