NFER’s international voice in education

In April, NFER’s Senior Research Manager, Dr Julie Nelson, was one of a number of international experts invited to participate in a two-day meeting in Washington DC, USA. The meeting focused on the use of research evidence in public services and was jointly organised by the William T Grant Foundation and The Forum for Youth Investment.

The William T Grant Foundation is a grant-giving organisation in the States dedicated to supporting evidence-based policy and practice in order that young people from diverse backgrounds reach their fullest potential. The Forum for Youth Investment’s stated aim is to help leaders across America get young people ready for life. As with NFER, both organisations have as one of their goals building and maintaining successful collaborations between researchers and practitioners to make a real difference to the outcomes of all children and young people.

The purpose of the meeting in Washington DC, which included over 70 delegates, was to advance efforts to build theory, methodological tools and empirical evidence in order to improve the use of research evidence in public policy and practice, and to build networks across disciplines, policy areas and organisations.

The meeting included a packed programme, with delegates from the US, UK, Australia and Canada presenting papers on a variety of topics related to the challenges of getting research evidence better used in policy and practice – challenges of definition, of mobilisation and of implementation.

Julie Nelson’s expertise is in the field of evidence-informed practice and policymaking, a topic on which she has presented widely, both in the UK and overseas. At the Washington DC meeting Julie led a successful workshop on the topic of measuring practitioner research use using surveys. For this she collaborated with colleagues from the newly-formed Center for Research Use in Education (CRUE) based at the University of Delaware.

Julie Nelson is standing third from the left.

After the formal conference ended, Julie and other UK delegates attended a day of policy meetings in various locations around Washington. This included a meeting with President Obama’s administration team in the White House (the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office), and lunch with legislators and lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans.

NFER continues to seek opportunities and partnerships in the UK and overseas to ensure that changes to education are informed by evidence and the effects evaluated so that policymakers, leaders and practitioners can see if their actions are really making a difference. Thanks to openness and collaboration across the education sector, our collective knowledge and understanding is steadily growing.