Research at DFT

An overview of research undertaken by the Department for Transport.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is committed to making policies that are based on evidence. We need evidence so we can understand the context in which we’re working, the challenges we’re facing and how these will change over time. Evidence also helps us to understand the likely impacts of our policies and lets us evaluate whether they’re effective.

We use evidence from a variety of disciplines including science, statistics and social research. We commission original research to provide evidence where it’s not available from other sources.

Research projects and reports

Information about research projects funded by the department is available from our research database and we publish research and analysis reports and road safety research and statistical reports.

Highways England and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency conduct their own research.

How we procure research

We commission external organisations to conduct research to meet some of our evidence requirements. See Procurement at DfT for information about working with us.

Science research

Science and engineering evidence and advice informs a lot of the work we do. Our Chief Scientific Adviser and Science Advisory Council help to make sure that we have access to the best and most up-to-date science and engineering information.

Social and behavioural research

Government social researchers provide fit-for-purpose, timely evidence and technical expertise on social and behavioural aspects of transport to inform policy and operational delivery across DfT and its agencies.

Social research generates data and analysis using the methods of social science such as:

  • social surveys
  • focus groups
  • in-depth interviews
  • case studies
  • deliberative research

All the social research we do follows the government social research (GSR) code set out in the Government social research: profession strategy 2015 to 2020.

The DfT social and behavioural research team at also provides advice and expertise in the application of behavioural insights to policy and operations.

Behavioural insights is a branch of social science that explains how people make decisions and how this influences their behaviour. This can help policy makers and internal teams design effective solutions to behavioural challenges. Newer areas of behavioural insights include their application to the behaviour of organisations.

Social research and evaluation reports.


Monitoring and evaluation are important activities for any learning organisation which aims progressively to improve its performance. They allow for systematic learning from past and current activities – ‘what works, what doesn’t work’ and ‘why’. This provides the department with greater accountability and a strong evidence base for future decision making.

Research publication policy

The department is committed to publishing social research and evaluation studies it commissions to inform its policies and projects.

Studies will be published at the final report stage after thorough analytical review of their findings has been completed, including peer review where appropriate. Interim outputs will not be published routinely.

As a guideline for publication timing, we follow the Government social research publication protocol. This states that studies should be published promptly, with the normal maximum being 12 weeks from agreeing the final report. Within this period, the timing of the release can coincide with policy announcements, decisions or events.


The department publishes commentary, tables and data on statistical trends in transport.

Transport science and research