Translating research for policy: the importance of equivalence, function, and loyalty



Connelly S, Vanderhoven D, Rutherfoord R, Richardson L & Matthews P (2021) Translating research for policy: the importance of equivalence, function, and loyalty. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8, Art. No.: 191.

The question of how to make academic research more useful to government, and frustration over its lack of obvious use, have long been the subject of policy makers’ and scholars’ attention. These have driven the global development of institutionalised links between the two communities, while also leading to a broad consensus as to why the goal is often not realised. In order to better explain the barriers, this paper takes the concept of “translation” very literally, and proposes an innovative approach, which analyses academic and policy practices using ideas from the humanities-based discipline of Translation Studies. This enables an exploration of what constitutes good translation, and in particular of the tension between keeping faith with the original material and users’ understandable emphasis on functionality. The conclusion is that while some aspect of original research content must be maintained, what this is cannot be prescribed: the appropriate equivalence between original and translation is always context-dependent. This throws the emphasis on the relational aspects of translatorial action for promoting “good translation”. The argument follows Christiane Nord in seeing the core issue as the moral one of a translator’s loyalty to original author and user, and so also of mutual trust between academics and civil servants. This raises important questions about how such trust can be cultivated, and so finally leads to an emphasis on the importance of an endeavour shared by researchers and policy makers, which recognises and respects their different environments and the work involved in creating useful meaning from scholarly research.

Language and linguistics; Politics and international relations

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications: Volume 8

FundersAHRC Arts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online03/08/2021
Date accepted by journal19/07/2021

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Professor Peter Matthews

Professor Peter Matthews

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology