Models of policy-making and their relevance for drug research

Alison Ritter*, Gabriele Bammer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Introduction and Aims. Researchers are often frustrated by their inability to influence policy.We describe models of policy-making to provide new insights and a more realistic assessment of research impacts on policy. Design and Methods. We describe five prominent models of policy-making and illustrate them with examples from the alcohol and drugs field, before drawing lessons for researchers. Results. Policy-making is a complex and messy process, with different models describing different elements.We start with the incrementalist model,which highlights small amendments to policy, as occurs in school-based drug education.A technical/rational approach then outlines the key steps in a policy process from identification of problems and their causes, through to examination and choice of response options, and subsequent implementation and evaluation.There is a clear role for research, as we illustrate with the introduction of new medications, but this model largely ignores the dominant political aspects of policy-making. Such political aspects include the influence of interest groups, and we describe models about power and pressure groups, as well as advocacy coalitions, and the challenges they pose for researchers.These are illustrated with reference to the alcohol industry, and interest group conflicts in establishing a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. Finally, we describe the multiple streams framework, which alerts researchers to 'windows of opportunity', and we show how these were effectively exploited in policy for cannabis law reform inWestern Australia. Discussion and Conclusions. Understanding models of policy-making can help researchers maximise the uptake of their work and advance evidence-informed policy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)352-357
    Number of pages6
    JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


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