Enhancing the evidence base for planners

As Dr Mike Harris, Deputy Head of Policy and Research at the Royal Town Planning Institute, wrote on the RTPI’s blog in April, defending and enhancing the profession so that planning can deliver the greatest possible value for society requires evidence and research. Research is inherent to what it means to be a professional – to take informed, evidence-based decisions. More broadly, it can help to lift the perspective of practitioners beyond the day-to-day demands of the job, to provoke reflection and discussion about the wider social purposes and values of planning.

However, we’re also keenly aware of the major barriers to practitioners keeping up with the latest evidence – most obviously lack of time and the accessibility of much research (literally so in the case of academic journals, most of which are kept behind paywalls, but also in terms of the digestibility of some academic research). With resources in local planning authorities in particular likely to remain very tight, but with practitioners under more pressure to deliver than ever, how can the profession retain and enhance the evidence base it needs to do its job effectively? And how can practitioners engage with the research and analysis on key developments in policy that affect planning, such as devolution, economic growth and competitiveness, and housing?

It’s in order to address these questions that the Idox Information Service is partnering with the Institute to provide an exclusive offer for RTPI members. In this blog I want briefly to introduce the service and how it can help planners.

40 years of expertise

The Idox Information Service is a membership library service which was established over forty years ago under its earlier name of the Planning Exchange. At the outset the emphasis was on the provision of resources to support professionals working in planning and the built environment, but we’ve expanded our subject coverage over the years to cover the whole spectrum of public sector information.

Our members include policymakers and practitioners from organisations including local authorities, central government, universities, think tanks, consultancies and charities. We recognise that they work in challenging environments and often need evidence to inform service delivery or decision-making.

Supporting professional practice and policy

Underlying our service is a commitment to evidence-based practice and policy-making. We care passionately about promoting the uptake of evidence and research by policymakers and practitioners. We also follow closely the current evidence-based policy agenda in the UK, encompassing initiatives such as the What Works network, the Local Government Knowledge Navigators and independent organisations such as the Alliance for Useful Evidence. These are working on fostering demand for evidence as well as linking up academics with those in the public sector to ensure that the research community is responsive to the needs of those making decisions and designing and delivering services.

New, exclusive offer for planners

As a result, we’re pleased to announce the launch of our new individual membership offer, which allows professionals to benefit from our expertise. Our skilled team of researchers can keep planners up to date with the latest research, policy developments and information on planning and planning- related topics. This allows members to keep their working knowledge relevant and current, and it also supports CPD.

The RTPI and Idox have come together to offer Institute members an exclusive rate of £179 (plus VAT) – a 30% saving off the cost of the normal rate for individuals. This has been developed in response to demand from planners to access the service on an individual basis.

Feedback from our subscribers consistently tells us that our service is used as part of their training and development; it supports them in writing and responding to policy; in keeping abreast of wider policy areas which affect planning; and helps them continuously improve their own practice through reading case studies, evaluations and the latest research in the field.

About the offer

Individual membership provides RTPI members with access to:

  • Searchable online database of planning research resources with over 200,000 records and with 10,000 new items added every year;
  • Free access to member-only briefings on key planning topics;
  • 50 current awareness bulletins per year;
  • Twice-monthly topic updates – choose from over 32 topics including planning, regeneration, economic development, management, architecture and transport;
  • Free user support to help planners find and access the research they need;
  • Book loans and copyright material are available on request (subject to additional charges).

To find out more about what we cover, read our planning subject guide.

You can find out more about the offer for Institute members on the RTPI website.

We’re happy to be working with the RTPI to enhance professional knowledge and intelligence at a crucial time for planning, and we look forward to welcoming more RTPI members as subscribers to our service.

By Rebecca Riley, Idox

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