Table 1

Barriers to and facilitators of social policy trials identified with interviewees

Personal contacts/researcher policy contact/serendipityPoor communication by researchers; ambivalence/hostility by researchers and research brokers
Potential for good cost-benefit information
Independence of evaluators from policy/politiciansProblems if policy initiative to which politicians have committed themselves shown not to work
Funding for new initiatives tied to good trial evidence/accountabilityCost/complexity of running a trial
Advocacy by those whose trials have shown an effect in other countriesAmbivalence/hostility by some researchers and research brokers
Good dissemination skills by trialists; willingness to avoid too many caveats when presenting resultsOver-enthusiasm by some trial proponents
A lot of good research on what the problems are; less on what to do about themPejorative use of term ‘experimentation’
Convincing trial welcome to politiciansLack of high-quality trial applications
Support from key government departments (eg, Treasury)Moral and ethical concerns/equipoise
Lack of researcher experience in social policy trials
Recruitment problems
Timing (in relation to policy development)/political desire to get things up and running quickly
RCTs more suited to clinical research
The line of least resistance not to carry them out
Culture of advocacy, case study, precedent and anecdote
  • RCTs, randomised controlled trials.