RURU: Using research to evidence policy

Rees Hughes
Friday 29 March 2024

The Research Unit for Research Utilisation (RURU) has been shaping how we use research to inform and change policy and practice since 2001. Housed within the Department of Management and led by Dr Vicky Ward, RURU aims to investigate and enhance the use of social science research within policy contexts. In a new phase of its development, RURU is looking outward to new collaborations throughout St Andrews.


Established in 2001 through ESRC funding, the RURU remit focuses on how research interacts with policy, where these connections are effective and how to enhance further use of research within policymaking.

Initially co-directed by Prof. Huw Davies and Prof. Sandra Nutley, RURU was designed to move across and between disciplines, bringing them together to advocate for interdisciplinary evidence use. Inspired by this perspective, RURU has historically focused on policy areas which are inherently multi-disciplinary, such as: health and social care, education and criminal justice.

The RURU ethos reinforces that “the ways in which research is combined with other forms of evidence and knowledge is likely to have important impacts on the nature, distribution, effectiveness, efficiency and quality of public services.” This principle has led RURU into exploring a breadth of policy areas, including sustainability, international development, transport, housing and welfare.

Expanding the policy themes has empowered RURU to revisit its purpose and seek new contributors across the University.

Refreshing RURU

The RURU expansion is ongoing, as shown by an interdisciplinary gathering on the 7th of March 2024. The event brought together colleagues from the Schools of English, Modern Languages, Management, International Relations and the Department of Anthropology. The aim of the event was to introduce RURU to colleagues within the University and to discuss how it will enable interdisciplinary work in new ways.

The event began with conceptually clearing the ground around research-informed policy and practice with colleagues being encouraged to share and explore words associated with the topic. This revealed a lot of commonalities in the group, including surprise connections that promise new opportunities. 

Moving on to a discussion of networks, the group uncovered a level of shared networks and collaborative partners that was previously unknown. Many of the colleagues in the room used the same research-policy interfaces, and all stood to benefit from learning about how each other worked in these arenas. 

Looking to the future, the group agreed to explore how to build further connections within St Andrews, to scope areas for further research into research-informed policy and practice and to use these to bring colleagues together in new and exciting ways. The group also agreed that RURU is best conceived as a network of researchers with a shared interest in better understanding and improving research-informed policy and practice.

To stay up to date with the RURU Network’s journey please visit

To see how RURU has integrated research into policy in the past and its role in REF2021, click here.

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