Bring on the Policy Entrepreneurs

Article by Erica Goldman: “Teaching early-career researchers the skills to engage in the policy arena could prepare them for a lifetime of high-impact engagement and invite new perspectives into the democratic process.

In the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the scientific literature worldwide was flooded with research articles, letters, reviews, notes, and editorials related to the virus. One study estimates that a staggering 23,634 unique documents were published between January 1 and June 30, 2020, alone.

Making sense of that emerging science was an urgent challenge. As governments all over the world scrambled to get up-to-date guidelines to hospitals and information to an anxious public, Australia stood apart in its readiness to engage scientists and decisionmakers collaboratively. The country used what was called a “living evidence” approach to synthesizing new information, making it available—and helpful—in real time.

Each week during the pandemic, the Australian National COVID‑19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce came together to evaluate changes in the scientific literature base. They then spoke with a single voice to the Australian clinical community so clinicians had rapid, evidence-based, and nationally agreed-upon guidelines to provide the clarity they needed to care for people with COVID-19.

This new model for consensus-aligned, evidence-based decisionmaking helped Australia navigate the pandemic and build trust in the scientific enterprise, but it did not emerge overnight. It took years of iteration and effort to get the living evidence model ready to meet the moment; the crisis of the pandemic opened a policy window that living evidence was poised to surge through. Australia’s example led the World Health Organization and the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to move toward making living evidence models a pillar of decisionmaking for all their health care guidelines. On its own, this is an incredible story, but it also reveals a tremendous amount about how policies get changed…(More)”.