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Impact Case Studies

Evaluating Effectiveness

Durham University research aims to improve public policy by taking a systematic, evidence-based approach to decision-making, changing the thinking of those within the 'evidence-based policy' (EBP). Professor Cartwright's research is shifting thinking and practice in the evidence-based policy movement from its focus on randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to more context- and user-centred approaches that make use of additional methods and information to improve policy-effectiveness, evaluation and prediction. This is transforming the policy landscape in four key areas:

  • International development: e.g. in the government's Department for International Development's (DFID's) Centre for Excellence for Development Impact & Learning (CEDIL)
  • Medicine: e.g. in the UK Academy of Medical Sciences' Sources of evidence for assessing the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of medicines
  • Education: Uptake of ideas from Cowen and Cartwright's Making the Most of the Evidence in Education: A Guide for Working Out What Works.. Here and Now
  • Child protection: writing with the author of the United Kingdom government's 2011 Munro Review of Child Protection

Improving Decision-Making Procedures in the UK Ministry of Defence and other Government Departments

A philosophical theory of scientific evidence, the Pragmatist Theory of Evidence, developed by Durham University Professor Reiss has shaped a decision tool called the 'Evidence Framework Approach' (EFA), now used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) of the MoD wished 'to maximise the impact of science and technology for the defence and security of the United Kingdom' by creating, aggregating and interpreting scientific evidence to support logistic, tactical and strategic decisions of the MoD. The EFA describes practical ways to use evidence and improve its analytical quality to support procurement and other decisions made by the MoD. The EFA is currently being incorporated into the Analytical Quality Assurance (Aqua) Book which is used widely within the United Kingdom government. Further, Reiss's work on mechanisms has changed thinking about models within the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Quality Assurance of Analytical Models whose reports develop 'best practice guidelines' of quality assurance (QA) of analytical models that inform government policy.

The Aesthetics of Imperfection: Changing Improvisational Practice in the Arts

Durham University research has changed the creative practices of an influential body of reflective musicians and artists innovating in avant-garde disciplines in the UK and beyond. The aesthetics of imperfection is an approach to the creation and evaluation of artistic works that values spontaneity and the process of performance over planning, preparation and revision. Professor Hamilton's development of the aesthetics of imperfection has had a worldwide impact on how artists - primarily musicians - reflect on, develop, communicate and educate others about their creative practice. Musicians and artists have testified about its effect in producing new creative outputs; outputs that would not have happened otherwise. The discussion of Hamilton's ideas in public forums has also produced impact on the wider public, especially on those working within the 'improvised music' community from Newcastle and the North-East to New York.