The International Public Policy Observatory


The International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO) aims to mobilise and assess evidence from different geographical and institutional contexts to inform policymakers throughout the United Kingdom about the best ways to mitigate social harms associated with COVID-19. Our overall ambition is to contribute to better policymaking and thereby to the wellbeing of UK citizens.

The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for policymakers and other decision-makers across the UK. They continue to be asked to make varied and complex decisions in quick succession. The range of evidence and information grows continuously – but if it’s not easily accessible and relevant, it is not helpful. Indeed, it can even create obstacles to developing the effective measures that are needed to help society through the severe and widespread impacts of COVID-19.

The research that IPPO undertakes and commissions is shaped and framed by numerous and diverse conversations with decision-makers. Those interactions help us to identify important questions and issues that can benefit from rigorous knowledge synthesis, drawing on research and expertise from around the world.

An initiative like IPPO demands a team of people with diverse skills and experience. This Observatory brings together people who have worked in policy development and implementing environments alongside academic and policy researchers. All of us are committed to bridging the gaps between research and policy to achieve positive social impact.

We are learning all the time about how to do this, and welcome feedback and engagement. Please do get in touch with your ideas for how best to fulfil these challenging aims and ambitions.

Professor Joanna Chataway (IPPO’s Principal Investigator)

Who is IPPO?

IPPO is a collaboration between UCL, Cardiff University, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Glasgow, the University of Auckland and the University of Oxford, together with think-tanks including the International Network for Government Science (INGSA) and academic news publisher The Conversation. It is led by Professor Joanna Chataway from UCL’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP).

IPPO undertakes policy research and works with engagement leaders in the devolved administrations, including Policy Scotland, Wales’ Social Science Park (SPARK) and Queen’s University Belfast and Pivotal, Northern Ireland’s leading policy think tank.

Who are IPPO’s funders, and how long is it funded for?

IPPO is supported by a £2 million, two-year grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. ESRC supports independent, high-quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and civil society – including (at any one time) supporting more than 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

What are the primary aims of IPPO?

IPPO has been established to enable national, devolved and local governments throughout the UK to:

  1. make better decisions in conditions of stress and avoid unnecessary mistakes;
  2. enable ongoing engagement with, and application of, evidence to inform rapidly evolving policy needs​; and
  3. achieve better outcomes for the British public – particularly at-risk groups including those in care, homeless people and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

IPPO aims to give politicians the insights, evidence and analysis of global policy responses to COVID-19 to enable them to address the immediate social, economic and public health impacts and help communities get back on their feet. We do this through a range of content products, from expert blogs to Rapid Evidence Reviews and Systematic Reviews. We also convene regular roundtable discussions for policymakers, academics, practitioners and other experts across our seven policy topic areas.

Along the way, we are assessing best-practice approaches to connecting the worlds of policy and social science, especially at times of crisis and rapid change.

What are IPPO’s key areas of focus?

IPPO’s work focuses on a broad spectrum of policy areas including education; mental health and well-being; living online; care homes and adult social care; housing; vulnerable communities; and addressing the disproportionate impacts on Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. In each of these areas, IPPO seeks to provide decision-makers in government at all levels with access to the best available global evidence on the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effectiveness of policy responses.

To ensure we can directly address the UK’s most urgent policy needs at both local and national levels, IPPO souces key questions and topics from policymakers, local leaders, frontline workers and others with experience and insights across all our policy areas. We then produce digestible summaries of what’s being done around the world to address these questions (including evidence on effectiveness). We also host IPPO briefing and discussion sessions to build vital bridges between policymakers and researchers.

How to get more involved with IPPO

If you are a decision-maker tackling the social impacts of COVID-19 and how to address them, we’re keen to learn from your experiences and insights, and shape our content accordingly. We want to know what questions you most need answers to, and what kind of research evidence would be most helpful for you to understand and address the full, long-term impacts of COVID-19. Click here to tell us more.

If you are an academic researching the social impacts of COVID-19 and responses to it, we’re keen to find out more about your work – and, if it’s of interest, to share relevant studies with you. We are also building a network of topic specialists who can contribute to IPPO’s content by writing blogs, rapid answers and topic snapshots. Click here to contact us.

​Finally, if you have any other questions about IPPO, please email us at ippo@ucl.ac.uk