Skip to content

Communicating best practice

20th Mar 2013

This month the government announced plans to set up “What Works” centres to gather, review, and disseminate best practice across a number of policy areas.

Dissemination of research findings, particularly in an age of devolution, is of critical importance. Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs), which are easy to understand (compared with other, less robust research methods) have great promise in this area, but cannot do the job by themselves.

To help policymakers understand and use RCTs as tools, BIT’s own Gyani & Sanders (forthcoming) found that explaining research in terms of an individual’s narrative, rather than as an experiment, can increase understanding by 30%. The same has been found in other areas. For example, Stewart and Chambless (2009) found that using case studies of a single patient is a more effective way of interesting therapists in using evidence based treatments. Small, Loewenstein and Slovic (2007), found that the story of a single deprived child attracted nearly twice as much in charitable donations as did data on the number of lives saved.


Gyani, A & Sanders, M (forthcoming): “RCT2: Communication and understanding of randomised controlled trials using narratives or statistics – a randomised controlled trial”

Stewart, Rebecca E., and Dianne L. Chambless. “Interesting practitioners in training in empirically supported treatments: Research reviews versus case studies.” Journal of clinical psychology 66.1 (2009): 73-95.
Small, Loewenstein & Slovic (2007): “Sympathy and Callousness: the impact of deliberative thought on donations to identifiable and statistical victims” Organisational behaviour and Decision Processes Vol.102 pp143-153