Flexible Design and Evolution
Being responsive to user needs applies both at programme level, as in the following two examples, and at project level. (See also the Project Flexibility link).
Example 1: The AVOID Programme
The AVOID Programme designed an innovative funding stream held within the programme which allowed researchers to answer some additional questions that emerged as policy needs changed in the light of new evidence. This may not sound very innovative but it was. One of the big challenges for evidence-based policy work is the speed at which analytical and research questions arise, which may push new questions beyond the scope of existing research contracts and programmes.
AVOID is therefore an example of a directed research programme that also shows flexibility and responsiveness - very desirable qualities in a programme that needs to make an impact. This also produces added financial value, since it may turn out to be more expensive to enforce the scope of a research activity so rigidly that a new piece of research has to be organised from scratch simply to answer an additional but related question.
Example 2: The Insect Pollinators Initiative
Early discussions which brought together different perspectives from LWEC funding partners (e.g. the Medical Research Council and Defra) helped the design of a more diverse research programme led by BBSRC. For example, bee experts are now working alongside neurobiologists (more used to studying human nervous systems). The LWEC Partnership co-design approach also helped to ensure that the research looked at other insect pollinators as well as honey bees in order to tackle a much wider range of important issues in the natural and agricultural environments. By involving different disciplines, and both research and policy people right from the start, knowledge from this LWEC activity is more likely to be valued and applied by decision-makers.