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Bridging the GapsLinking Research to Public Debates and Policy Making on Migration and Integration$

Martin Ruhs, Kristof Tamas, and Joakim Palme

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198834557

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198834557.001.0001

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Bridging Research, Public Debates, and Policies on Migration and Integration

Bridging Research, Public Debates, and Policies on Migration and Integration

Lessons Learnt and Ways Forward

(p.241) 15 Bridging Research, Public Debates, and Policies on Migration and Integration
Bridging the Gaps

Joakim Palme

Martin Ruhs

Kristof Tamas

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Based on the conceptual framework of the three-way relationships between research, public debates, and policy-making, this chapter identifies key insights and lessons that can be learnt from the diversity of national and international experiences discussed in the previous chapters. The chapter draws on the theoretical analyses and case studies to make a number of recommendations for researchers, policy practitioners, and other participants in public debates to help strengthen the links between them. We argue that when linking research to public debates and policy-making on integration and migration, actors need to recognize different national and institutional contexts in order to be effective. Engaging the media carefully and strategically is critical for success. Where research is conducted in response to specific policy questions, it is critical for the credibility and impact of the research that it remains independent. When the different actors contributing to research, public debates, and policy-making understand and appreciate each other’s constraints, such common understandings can pave the way for improved policy-making processes and better public policies that deal more effectively with the real challenges of migration and integration.

Keywords:   research, public debates, policies, migration, integration, institutions, politics

This book has provided a unique set of testimonies from researchers and experts who have been deeply involved in attempts to bridge the gaps between research and policy-making in the field of migration and integration. In the introductory Chapter 1, we suggested a three-way conceptual framework for the analyses of the various national and international level experiences including research, public debate/media, and policy-making. This conceptualization builds on the work of three thought-provoking contributions to this book: Chapter 2, by Christina Boswell on research, experts, and the politics of migration; Chapter 3, by Han Entzinger and Peter Scholten, on research–policy dialogues on integration; and Chapter 4, by William Allen, Scott Blinder, and Robert McNeil, on the relationship between research, public opinion, and the media. Our ambition has hence been to generate new insights about not only the direct relationship between research and policy-making, but also the critical and potentially mediating role of the media, as well as other features of the public debate.

In a variety of ways, this book has explored the interplay between the production, dissemination, and uses of knowledge in the area of international migration and integration. The chapters were written with three aims in mind. The first intention was to contribute to the theorization and understanding of the role of research in public debate and policy-making on migration and integration. As previously noted, its main contribution is therefore to frame research, public debate, and policy-making as a set of three-way relationships. The second aim was the critical discussion and identification of the (p.242) reasons for the successes or failures of a range of national and international initiatives to bridge the gaps between research, public debates, and policy-making; we will return to some reflections about this issue later in the Conclusion. The third intention was to identify effective strategies for linking research to public debates and policy-making on migration and integration in different national and institutional contexts. We have been particularly interested in exploring how to manage and strengthen these links in different contexts, and to ask how transferable particular approaches are across borders and institutional settings.

The role and uses of research in policy debates about migration and integration cannot be understood without considering the broader politics of these issues. Migration and integration are phenomena that are at the top of many national and international policy agendas and discussions. In addition to their political importance and salience, public debates and attitudes to migrants are often based, at least in part, on strong value-related emotions that involve both hopes and fears. Processes of migration and integration have consequences for the welfare and security of a number of different actors, ranging from migrants themselves to members of communities in both host countries and countries of origin. These processes also tend to raise classical political economy issues, generating costs and benefits for different groups, and involving potentially conflicting interests—for example, those of domestic workers, employers, and migrants. The role of research and knowledge thus comes into play in a political (mine)field that is full of different and frequently diverging, or even conflicting, values and interests. As a consequence, the research itself might become politicized.

Whether and how research is used in public debates and policy-making is also influenced by the specific institutional context. Migration and integration do not happen in a vacuum. They are embedded in broader institutional and structural contexts, such as national institutions for regulating labour markets and social security, that can and typically do differ across countries and change over time. This means that debates about migration are never just about migration but also about many other related public policy issues. How national, regional, and international institutions and policies are designed are political issues at heart; however, specific institutional designs can also have important implications for the characteristics and effects of migration and integration processes, as well as for the production and uses of knowledge in public policy debates about these issues. For example, the nature and characteristics of the political system, political decision-making processes, and the national ‘media culture’ affect whether and how research findings and ideas are used in public debates. A problematic media culture, where media is exploiting the fears among the public for commercial purposes and politicians do the same for political/electoral purposes, is of course a fertile soil for the abuse of (p.243) research (cf. Chapter 4). If media are dominated by negative sentiments towards researchers and experts, this is likely to magnify the problems.

Research can play an important role in promoting ‘virtuous’ polices that consciously manage and minimize trade-offs and promote positive-sum solutions for the concerned stakeholders. But, just to be clear, we do not expect that research and knowledge will resolve all tensions between different interests and values in policy-making on migration and integration. While it may be possible to reduce some trade-offs, an important contribution of research is the identification of the real conflicts, thus paving the way for an enlightened discussion about how to balance different goals and interests.

Given these political and institutional contexts, what can the analyses and case studies in this book tell us about the characteristics of, and strategies for strengthening the links between research, public debates, and policy-making on migration and integration?

Before identifying some of the key insights and lessons, it is important to reiterate what we stated in the introductory Chapter 1, namely, that we have not embarked on a systematic impact assessment exercise. The pragmatic reason for this approach is that it is difficult to isolate the effects of research on migration and integration policies in practice, as evidenced by the growing research literature on the societal impact of social science research (cf. Bastow et al. 2014). When examining the findings of the various chapters in this volume, we should also keep in mind that most of the contributors to this book are actors who, in different ways, belong to the research community, rather than policy-making or media circles. Furthermore, the contributors themselves have often been involved in some of the initiatives analysed in this book. Their research experience and personal involvement in some of the case studies may be a source of bias in their reflections and assessments of past experiences. Yet, this bias could potentially push the results in different directions when it comes to assessing the relationship between research and policy. For example, some researchers’ critical views may be based on unrealistic expectations about what could be achieved; if only the policy-makers listened more to researchers everything would be so much better! Other researchers may be biased in the opposite direction, in the sense that there could be a tendency to exaggerate their own importance. If our aim had been to undertake systematic impact evaluations, these risks and potential biases could have created a significant difficulty and methodological problem. However, since our aim has been different and more explorative, the scholars’ and experts’ personal involvement in some of the experiences they describe does not necessarily weaken the analysis. In any case, it is clear from their discussions in this book that the chapter authors are all acutely aware of these challenges.

(p.244) Lessons Learnt

On a conceptual level, the case studies have not only illustrated that research, public debates, and policies can all influence each other, but also that there can be two-way causalities between each of these three components. For example, the focus of research questions and the types of data collected can be affected by politics, as well as by public debates in media and elsewhere (e.g. Chapter 7 on Norway and Chapter 9 on Sweden). The book also includes examples of researchers influencing public debates and policies by providing new research, expert commentary, and expert advice to policy-making processes (e.g. Chapter 5 on the UK, Chapter 7 on Norway, and Chapter 8 on Germany). It is important to recognize that expert commentary and advice do not necessarily require the production of new research. Given the very short time lines that tend to dominate in policy-making, it is often impossible to find the time to carry out new in-depth studies. Typically, policy advice has to build on the existing body of research; this can be problematic to the extent that the available research may have been produced in response to questions other than the specific policy issue under consideration.

The chapters in this book have further demonstrated that research can have an influence on policy-making both directly but also indirectly, through public debate, via media as well as civil society organizations (e.g. Chapter 13 on Canada and Chapter 10 on the United States). Public opinion may be an important and integrated factor in the development of new migration and integration policies. Depending on the institutional context, some policy-makers may find themselves constrained in their policy choices by public opinion. Where the political salience and politicization of migration and integration are high, politicians who seek election or re-election typically cannot ignore these issues. Here, ‘evidence’ can be used for ‘legitimizing’ (cf. Chapter 2) policy choices that have become polarizing and emotionally loaded but can also be used for changing the mind-sets in the opposite direction and making discussions more fact-based and less polarized. How the interaction between our three types of actors work appears to be of critical importance for how this plays out.

The case studies in Chapters 7, 8, and 10 have also shown that whether and how research affects policy-making and public debate, will always be influenced by institutions, interests, and the broader politics of immigration and integration, as well as related policy areas such as education, labour markets, welfare states, and so on. There can be important interactions between research and other policy determinants, such as the economic interests of employers and the political orientation of the government in power. In addition to playing an instrumental role in policy-making, research can have important political functions which are often more symbolic than (p.245) instrumental. Chapter 2 distinguished two such symbolic functions of research: a ‘legitimizing function’ where stakeholders use research to enhance their legitimacy, and a substantiating function where expert knowledge and research are used to give authority to particular policy positions. In addition, Chapter 3 shows that the research–policy gap could widen due to the increasing politicization of the policy issue.

We argue that it is crucial to think seriously about how research can play an effective role beyond its substantiating and legitimizing functions. Although there is much scepticism about its potential, we believe that research can be of important instrumental or problem-solving value (cf. Chapter 2) as a tool for improving the processes and outcomes of migration, and human development more broadly. However, this is likely to require new research that can respond to the challenges that policy-makers are facing today—and tomorrow—in a more transformative way. We cannot limit the efforts of ‘bridge-building’ to communicating the existing body of research to policy-makers. An important part of the problem is that we need more and new knowledge about a large number of policy issues. If evidence is produced just for the sake of reinforced policy-making, the research–policy interaction would end up as an empty ritual and become ignored by policy-makers (Ahlbäck Öberg 2011). The challenge is to provide the institutional context that allows research to play a positive instrumental role in policy-making.

The book’s case studies of particular country experiences have clearly highlighted the importance of paying attention to cross-country differences in the politics and institutions that mediate the interrelationships between research, public debate, and policy-making on migration and integration. For example, Chapter 9, on the Swedish experience, points to the different traditions of organizing policy-related research in general, not merely when it comes to migration. There are also major differences between countries when it comes to the role of think tanks, which has had implications for how policy relevant research and expertise is, and could be, organized (which the Swedish case also serves to illustrate in Chapter 9). Recognizing these specific institutional contexts is a precondition for organizing and funding policy-relevant research in a way that makes it credible and helpful for public debate and policy-making processes. For instance, strengthening the links between research, public debates, and policy-making in the United States would need to take account of the particular role of think tanks. Philip Martin’s account of the US case in Chapter 10 shows that, rather than resulting in a pluralism of perspectives, the large number of politicized think tanks in the United States has contributed to entrenched views and disagreements between the two camps of what Philip Martin calls admissionists and restrictionists.

The importance of considering research as part of a three-way relationship with public debates and policy-making is very clear in the description (p.246) in Chapter 6 of the reception of the Máxima report from the independent government advisory body, the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR). The chapter demonstrates that it is not possible to understand the conflicts about this particular report without the role of the media. There are interesting similarities and differences between Chapter 6’s discussion of a publication of the WRR in the Netherlands and Chapter 7’s analysis of the experiences with two Norwegian commissions on immigration and the welfare state. The credibility of the institutions in the two countries was, at the outset, quite similar. Both the Dutch WRR and Norwegian NOU system generally enjoyed strong support and were seen as credible by more or less all sides of the debate. Yet, the Máxima report stirred up considerable emotion, while the Norwegian reports seem to have had the opposite effect and reduced the emotional loading of the issues. The public responses and media coverage of these reports in the two countries appear to have been dependent on the specific foci of the studies carried out. The kinds of identity issue raised in the Dutch report appear to be more sensitive than the cost–benefit analyses and welfare state issues that had been put at the forefront in the two Norwegian reports. That cultural issues around migration are more conflictual than economic matters, is in line with the findings of Lucassen and Lubbers (2012), as well as with a broader review of the field undertaken by Hainmuller and Hopkins (2014), and this could be one explanation for the Dutch controversy. Another explanatory factor for the different experiences in the two countries could have been that, while there had been high awareness, before publication, of the potentially strong conflicts around the report in Norway, the potential for controversy had not been anticipated, at least not to the same degree, in the Netherlands.

Chapter 9 on the Swedish committees shows that, even though they are meant to work independently from the government, their work can become politicized. The media plays an important role in this process of politicization, and it can be used by a range of different actors. The Swedish example illustrates how researchers can use media to argue for their own positions and conclusions, run their internal academic debates, and to criticize governments. It also shows how opposition parties may use the output of government-funded committees to criticize the work of governments. At the same time, the discussion of the German case in Chapter 8 suggests that the media can be highly effective in serving as a bridge between researchers and policy-makers. In line with the chapters on Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands, the analysis of the German experience suggests that it can be helpful for media to be associated with potential stakeholders from the outset of the research process.

It is important to find ways of avoiding or minimizing the politicization of research. It is clear from the various analyses in this book that media have an (p.247) important role to play in any efforts to reduce the degree of politicization of research on migration and integration. It is important to add that the aim of reducing politicization does not imply that we should seek to take politics out of migration and integration policy (cf. Chapter 5) but, rather, that politics and policy preferences should not be confused with, or obstruct, the important task of research to describe and analyse ‘the state of the world’.

This book has given ample room for the analysis of national experiences. As nation-states subscribe to various global or regional regimes for handling international migration—such as those based on the 1951 Refugee Convention or the ‘free movement’ of workers in the European Union (EU)—they need to be engaged in decision-making processes on these international levels. This makes bridge-building between research and policy-making important also in these international contexts. The balancing act of handling the three-way relationship between research, public debate, and policy-making becomes even more difficult when international debates and policy processes are added to national ones. In Chapter 11, on the use of research and experts in EU policy-making on migration, Elizabeth Collet is clear about her view: there has to be exchange and proximity between the worlds of politics and research, otherwise the research will often be (or at least be perceived as) policy irrelevant. There is also a risk that, without sufficient contact between the two spheres, communication from the research side will be overloaded with high ambitions to ‘speaking truth to power’.

Chapter 12 illustrates the complexities when involving research generated outside European borders. The experience from the CARIM projects give guidance for how barriers can be overcome—not only where language is concerned, but also with regard to working with different research cultures. The case study in Chapter 12 also illustrates the risks of making research overly instrumental in attempts to export European norms and policy ideas to ‘partner countries’. Fostering modes of cooperation should essentially be about supporting virtuous circles in the three-way relationships between research, public debates, and policy-making. This is also of key importance at the global level. Chapter 14, on the role of researchers and experts in debates about the global governance of migration, highlights the significance of who is sitting at the table, for the content and legitimacy of migration research and policies. An important insight from Long’s historical inquiry is that research can matter a great deal by narrating the state of affairs, thereby contributing to setting the political agenda on the global level. It is, however, easy to share Long’s frustration about the difficulties for research in impacting on current policy-designs and recent global policy debates, where the role of research has been tightly constrained by agendas set by other actors. Chapter 13 reminds us of the fact that global is also local. The strong presence of cities in the International Metropolis project discussed in Chapter 13 reflects a (p.248) situation where cities are increasingly becoming policy-makers, not least in the integration arena. This is recognized in EU-funded research and policy-making, too, illustrating the dynamics of multi-level governance and how the local level can help innovate migration and integration policies.

Ways Forward

A number of lessons can be learnt from the experiences reported in this book. We argue that these lessons can give guidance for ‘ways forward’ in efforts to make migration policy and public debates more informed by research. What can we do better? The simple truth may be that all actors involved have to try harder in order for policy-makers to gain the knowledge resources necessary to act more wisely. A fruitful strategy will most likely have to be built on the combination of a strong normative agenda, which specifies good codes of conduct in organizing the three-way relationships, with an improved and sound incentive structure for all of the pertinent stakeholders. At this stage, we can only hint at where to find the building blocks for both the norms and the incentives that can bring about the necessary changes.

Even if many individual researchers are highly effective in their public and policy engagement, it is clear that the research community as a whole can improve considerably in terms of its outreach beyond academia, which is paramount to any strategy that intends to build stronger bridges between research, public debates, and policy-making. Research can be more useful for policy-making by getting involved in different kinds of policy studies. Policy relevance can, however, be achieved in many different ways and does not necessarily involve the direct study of policies. It can be enough to highlight conditions that deserve to be addressed by policies. It is nevertheless true that, the closer research analyses come to actual policy instruments, the closer research gets to guiding policy-makers in the reform processes required to improve existing institutions and conditions. To achieve this may require greater involvement of different kinds of ‘brokers’ in the process, such as policy institutes, commissions, committees, and/or think tanks.

To be instrumental, in the sense of the concept as offered in Chapter 2, the independence of research needs to be safe-guarded. This suggests that public funding and its conditions are critical. In Chapter 10, Phil Martin’s frustration with the predictability of researchers should be taken seriously, and this issue is certainly not only about think tanks. It is clearly difficult to make an instrumental contribution if the results are completely predictable. Beyond that, policy-makers and researchers, as well as media, need to be constantly engaged in a serious discussion concerning the way in which questions are asked to research, the analytical frames imposed, and the way in which data (p.249) and results are interpreted. This must involve critical awareness of fundamental methodological issues, especially about the consequences of choosing one analytical frame for the analysis in favour of another. Some contradictory research results are simply the outcome of choosing a particular model, and the appropriate choice of analytical framework is at least partly dependent on what questions we ask. Certainly, the kinds of questions we ask often follow from our values and politics. We cannot, and should not, take the politics out of migration policy, but we should be very transparent about the political nature of the questions we pose and how we evaluate the results.

Researchers can always improve in terms of making their work and results more accessible. This is, however, easier said than done. Howard Duncan (Chapter 13) is not alone in observing the poor incentive structure in academia in this regard, and in noting that this is particularly true and problematic for younger scholars. While funding and the way that career-paths are designed in the academic world should be improved in a way that rewards policy-relevant research, this is unlikely to be sufficient. There are issues around communication that require the kind of specialization that journalism represents. We need many more ‘knowledge brokers’ embedded in the university/research system and policy-oriented research institutes to be able to build solid bridges to media, as well as other bridges to policy-making communities, also, where appropriate, involving civil society and the private sector. Being more inclusive and transparent in the research process (e.g. in the problem definition phase) is another important way forward to fostering more cooperation within the research community, but also with media and policy actors. As pointed out in Chapter 14, part of being more inclusive is also about language: researchers that aim to generate policy-relevant research have to be able to use concepts and descriptions that translate easily to public debates and realities.

A number of contributors to this book argue that there is no better instrument for bridging the gap between research and policy-making than the media. Chapter 6 discusses how policy-oriented research (institutes) can play the role of an ‘honest broker’ between (university-based) research and public policy debates, but it also points to the necessity of getting media and other critical voices on board to facilitate this brokerage. Clearly, engaging the media to achieve policy impact carries many risks as well as opportunities, and using media alone cannot be expected to deliver policy impact in the intended way. We need to build a chain of ‘honest brokers’ from university-based research all the way to the policy-making circles by means of applied research institutes, commissions and the media. We also argue that the linking of the various actors should be done in ways that do not compromise the role of the media to keep a critical eye on both researchers and policy-makers. Moreover, it is of decisive importance for members of media to scrutinize what other media actors are doing, as well.

(p.250) To strengthen the links between researchers, public policy-makers, the media and other contributors to public debates, it is critically important that the different actors understand and appreciate each other’s primary aims and constraints. This implies that much more needs to be done to foster such a common understanding, which appears to be a vital condition for the promotion of genuine cooperation between the key actors and a stepping stone for the evolution of a good climate for research-based policy reforms.

Ultimately, whatever researchers and media do to improve, there will be no change if politicians do not listen and reflect on what is being brought to the table. The conceptual framework in Chapter 2 is a useful starting point for such reflections. There will always be circumstances when research is used to only legitimize or substantiate policy changes but the more politicians are able to use research for instrumental reasons, letting policy reforms be directly guided by research, the better. We know from Chapter 14 that, historically, some transformative changes have been aided by ground-breaking research efforts. We should ask ourselves if and how it is possible to repeat such positive experiences.

In politics and policy-making, going with the flow and maintaining the status quo is perhaps the least demanding political strategy. This also applies to the policy field of migration and integration. However, such an approach would lead to missed opportunities to make a difference as public policy reforms carry the potential to greatly improve human conditions. The more instrumental (or even transformative) the policy changes, the greater the courage demanded on the part of political leadership. Another vision for the role of research in policy-making that has guided this book is that we constantly need to evaluate and re-evaluate our understanding of how the policy world works. We argue that there is an important potential for improvement of the performance of migration and integration policies if existing institutions and policies are subject to recurrent evaluations. This is about promoting a process that Hoppe (2005) has labelled ‘the learning model’ of research—policy interactions, where policy-making becomes part of social experimentation (see Chapter 9). However, such a process would require that policy reforms and evaluations be guided by an underlying normative agenda concerning the ultimate goals of policies (which is something different from the normative aspects of regulating the three-way research/public debate/policy relationship). Migration is mentioned in several of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals but is not a Leitmotif in any of them. While it is clear that, together, migration and integration have a very important role to play in promoting human development in very broad terms, a more elaborate and explicit normative agenda for migration policy is needed and this certainly applies to policies at the national level to.

(p.251) In this context, it is also important to ask if and how research in the migration and integration field can be harmful. We know that the results of research, including those of high quality research, can sometimes be used for a range of different ends, some of which might generate negative consequences for at least some groups. The risk of research creating harm is increased, however, if it is not conducted properly (from a scientific perspective) and/or if it is misinterpreted. If research is not carried out properly, this is a problem for the research community to resolve—a serious one, too. There is also an important responsibility resting with the researchers to be clear in explaining the research results and their implications. The misinterpretation of research results in public debates or during policy-making processes may or may not be intentional. If they are unintended, stronger bridges between research, public debates and policy-making may reduce the problem. We argue that when policy-makers or contributors to public debates deliberately misinterpret the results of research studies, there should be strong demands on both media and researchers to scrutinize the political and other relevant actors, including their interests and values. Pluralism and political independence in the media landscape may help prevent deliberate and gross misinterpretation and misuse of research results in media coverage.

To conclude, we believe that well-designed policies on migration and integration carry the potential to make significant contributions to the reduction of human insecurities and the promotion of human development. We also argue that public policy designs will improve if they are founded on a research-based understanding of how the world works. At the same time, failed policies can generate great risks for human security and development. This is why we want to increase the supply of policy-relevant research and why we are concerned about the common failures to consider and feed relevant research into public debates and policy-making processes. However, we strongly believe that matters can improve and we hope that this book can help identify potential ways forward.

Any significant positive and sustainable effort to ‘bridge the gaps’ requires changes by all actors involved in the three-way relationships between research, public debates, and policy-making. All actors have the potential to influence each other because of the two-way causalities between each of these three elements. This suggests that any intervention or change can trigger both ‘vicious’ and ‘virtuous’ circles that either weaken or strengthen the links between research, public debates and policy.

Our concluding suggestions for building more and stronger bridges between research, public debates and policy-making are as follows:

  • All actors should recognize that migration and integration are complex processes that require careful and multi-faceted policy interventions. This sounds like a very basic argument, but it is one that appears to be increasingly rejected in public policy debates that are often focused on ‘quick (p.252) fixes’ and immediate policy ‘solutions’ to what are often complex policy dilemmas. Researchers are often criticized for highlighting complexities without offering clear policy answers. This critique is sometimes fair but, in the case of the migration and integration issues analysed in this book, ignoring issue complexities and inter-dependencies can become an important reason for public misunderstandings and policy failures.

  • To strengthen the links between researchers, public policy-makers, the media, and other contributors to public debates, it is of critical importance that the different actors understand and appreciate each other’s primary aims and constraints. This implies that much more needs to be done to foster such common understandings and this requires a constant dialogue between the key actors.

  • The political and socio-economic institutional context can shape the effectiveness of specific interventions aimed at bridging the gaps in important ways, thus limiting the transferability of particular experiences and lessons across countries and over time. This does not mean that there can be no learning across countries but that each intervention needs to be tailored to the specific institutional environment (e.g. to the specific political system and media culture).

  • Migration is not beneficial for everything and everyone at all times. The politics of immigration and integration are often dominated by distributional (rather than economic efficiency) issues as well as the perceived impacts on culture, identity, and security. To be effective and credible in what are often highly politicized and polarized debates, research that aims to influence public policy debates must be—and must be seen to be—independent of the politics of migration, at least at arm’s length from power. At the same time, research that claims to be impartial and evidence-based has a responsibility, and we would argue obligation, to identify the benefits and costs of any specific policy intervention, or entire policy regime, for all key stakeholders involved and affected. This is of particular importance in a policy field that is plagued by simplification and one-sidedness.

  • Researchers who aim to engage with public policy issues need to interact more closely with policy-makers, journalists, and actors from civil society in order to become relevant, which has to do with both the way research questions are asked by the researchers themselves and the way policy-makers are helped to understand how the results from research may be translated into the world of policy-making.

  • Media organizations can play an important role in bridging the gaps between research, policy and the public but, if they do not work with (p.253) other ‘honest brokers’, the risk is that the media erodes the entire ‘bridge construction’. We recommend including specialized journalists in both research processes and the dissemination of research results.

  • Our suggestion for politicians is that they should ask precise questions to the research community, including questions regarding the effects and trade-offs of specific policy interventions under consideration, but make sure that their questions could actually be answered by more research. In addition to turning to the research community to help address specific policy questions, politicians can—and we argue should—also use research and researchers to engage in bigger picture reflections on, for example, the many interdependencies between migration and other issue areas, and the longer-term consequences of migration and integration processes and policies.

We hope that this book has shown that bridging the gaps between research, public debates, and policy-making requires actions by a range of different stakeholders, not just by researchers and policy-makers. It requires a collective recognition of the importance of the issue, and a collaborative approach that can promote the evolution of more effective institutions with the adequate norms and incentives for all the relevant stakeholders to engage. We hope this book can help promote debates that can generate more ideas about how this can be done in practice. (p.254)


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