Leveraging knowledge-policy interfaces for food systems transformation in the UK: lessons from civil society

Tanya Zerbian, Christopher Yap, Rosalind Sharpe, Christian Reynolds

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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This report presents the findings of a research project that explored how civil society organisations (CSOs) navigate ‘knowledge-policy interfaces’ to influence food policy in the UK. These interfaces encompass processes, spaces, and structures related to knowledge exchange amongst policy actors, including but not limited to researchers, policymakers, CSOs, and industry. CSOs, here, are defined as non-governmental, non-profit or not-for-profit, and independent organisations that operate in the public sphere (Edwards, 2014). The report provides insights into CSOs’ approaches, constraints, and roles within these interfaces. It aims to make visible the important and challenging work of CSOs in driving food policy change and share valuable lessons for shaping food policy between sectors. Evidence-based policymaking acknowledges that the use of rigorous research and scientific findings is needed to shape effective policies. However, the complex and political nature of policymaking suggests that evidence and policy are interconnected; each influences the other. There are also a wide range of factors that shape how different forms of knowledge influence or do not
influence food policy including highly unequal power relations between
organisations, diverse institutional capacities, and unequal access to
resources such as research funding. In the UK, ‘formal’ knowledge-policy interfaces, such as expert advisory panels and stakeholder consultations, shape food policies by influencing how evidence is selected, produced, interpreted,
and evaluated. However, knowledge-policy interfaces extend beyond these formal processes. Understanding them requires us to examine the multiple relations between evidence and food policy; it requires us to engage with networks, practices, and capacities of the diverse organisations involved. CSOs play crucial roles in these interfaces, not least in bridging the gap between academic
research, local knowledge, and policymaking. However, the diversity of
approaches these organisations use to leverage food knowledge-policy
interfaces in the UK are not well explored. The research used a qualitative, mixed-methods approach, conducted between February and April 2023. It involved two phases of data collection: desk-based actor categorisation followed by semi-structured interviews. The first phase focused on understanding the types of CSOs involved in food knowledge-policy interfaces in the UK and their activities related to evidence and knowledge production. The second phase involved 17 semi-structured interviews with staff members or officers at CSOs to gain insights into their strategies, rationales, and challenges in influencing UK food policy.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherUKRI-Transforming UK Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund
Commissioning bodyUKRI-Transforming UK Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund
Number of pages40
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Dec 2023


  • knowledge-policy interface, science-policy interface, food system governance,


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