Centre for Market and Public Organisation to Centre for Evidence-based Public Services

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Economics

Abstract

The Centre addresses research questions covering the provision of public services - education, healthcare and welfare provision, and public policy more broadly. It takes an interdisciplinary approach and its focus is strongly international, analysing policy reforms in the UK and wider Europe, and placing increased focus on public policy in developing economies.

The main areas in which we work are:
A) Public services provision and the design of welfare systems
B) Education policy
C) Health and economic outcomes
D) Urban, transport and environmental policy
In addition, a cross-cutting theme covers data development and econometric methods.

Our aim is to provide robust quantitative evidence that is directly useful in policy design, and to advance academic knowledge in these areas. Our approach combines cutting-edge empirical techniques, the development of new data and the leveraging of existing administrative data to better understand how individuals and organisations respond to changes in the policy environment. We aim to use these findings to improve government policy making and advance understanding of individual and firm behaviour.

The main activities that we propose to carry out under the Legacy Centre Funding aim to translate our research into policy impact, and to inform the public debate around the effects of government policies and public spending.

Planned Impact

Using research to make an impact is a key part of the ethos and output of the Centre. The issues that the Centre addresses are of key concern to governments, public service providers, tax payers and citizens and are often hotly contested.

Who will benefit from these activities, and how will they benefit?

- The policy community

We have a first-class track record of using rigorous research to achieve policy impact nationally and internationally. Within the programme of impact activities in this bid we aim specifically to benefit policy makers in the areas of:
* The design of welfare and social security programmes (e.g. which features of these programmes make the biggest difference in helping people return to work?)
* Education policy (e.g. how do reforms to teachers' pay affect outcomes for students? How do school admissions policies affect neighbourhoods and the pupil mix within schools?)
* Health policy (e.g. how do education, employment status, habits, and nutritional information influence food purchases and diet?)
* Transport policy (e.g. who are the winners and losers from improved rail connections?)

- The wider public

We seek to influence public debate both nationally and internationally. We believe that our research should be available to all those who wish to use it. We will engage with different audiences (e.g. the general public, students) through a wide range of media, including events such as the Festival of Economics, with the aim of stimulating and informing. Within our plans under the Legacy Centre funding, we anticipate providing new evidence on:
* The costs and benefits of zero-hours contracts
* How job polarisation might be affecting individuals' physical and mental health
* Influences on people's dietary choices.

- Business

Our research is also of relevance to business. Under our impact plans:
* Our work on the effects of high-speed rail connections to London should provide evidence on how businesses in different sectors of the economy are likely to be affected by being brought 'closer' to the capital city - identifying potential winners and losers.
* Our work on airport pricing strategies is of direct interest to airports in how to price different elements of their business (retail activities versus services for airlines)
* Our work on improving worker productivity in an industrial park in a low-income country setting should directly benefit our project partner organisation.

How will you ensure they benefit?

Policy community. Our strategic approach to delivering impact is to develop strong working relationships with policy officials to ensure that the work we do is visible to them, and that the issues our research tackles are relevant and timely. This is achieved through active engagement with the policy community through face-to-face meetings, presenting our research in Whitehall and at other policy fora, and involving research users in the policy community at an early stage - often this evolves as a direct result of working with administrative data drawn from government departments, or taking advisory roles. This strategy has been highly effective, as evidenced by our REF2014 Impact Cases.

General public. We will use online media plus the Research in Public Policy Bulletin which will be sent to targeted journalists. We will work with the Centre for Public Engagement at the University of Bristol on events, and Centre staff contribute annually to the popular Festival of Economics.

Business. For the work on airport pricing strategies we have already established links to Bristol Airport, and have received interest from Gatwick. The research on worker productivity is co-produced with the partner industrial park in Ethiopia, and this work has also already received some media attention in the UK. For the research on high-speed rail we aim to use the What Works Local Economic Growth Centre to develop links and engage the business sector.

Publications

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