Funding behaviour change research

Last night’s “Delivering Behaviour Change for Society” event organized by UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change had some interesting perspectives on where we are with behaviour change research, and where to go next. And how it could be funded.

Chris Norfield (Public Health Strategist: Behaviour Change – London Borough of Hounslow) spoke about the research needs of local authorities. He listed five key areas: effectiveness by demographic groups, testing what works (“strategic trial and error”), digital delivery, combining behaviour change techniques, and addressing multiple behaviours (either one at a time or several at once). Talking to Chris afterwards, I got the feeling that he was a bit skeptical about “online only” approaches, which I agree with. It’s all very nice having “an app for it”, but there are still many other ways of engagement and influence as well.

Adrian Alsop (Director of Research, Economic and Social Research Council) raised a question about “big data” and the future direction of behavioural research. I remain to be fully convinced, but I’m sure there are some interesting things that can be learned from data mining.

Most of the rest of the evening was on the various funding sources for research. It was all very positive, as it sounds like there are funds available both for traditional academic research, and also for some slightly less formal approaches (e.g. by NGOs). And the need for more interaction between academia and industry was mentioned by several speakers, which is of course something I’m in favour of, being in the industry and making a lot of use of academic research.

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