The politics of evidence-based policymaking: maximising the use of evidence in policy

Editor: Professor Paul Cairney (Professor of Politics and Public Policy, Division of History and Politics, University of Stirling, UK)

Scope: Many academics, in areas such as health and environmental policy, bemoan the inevitability of ‘policy based evidence’ rather than ‘evidence-based policy’. Some express the naïve view that policymakers should think like scientists and/or that evidence-based policymaking should be more like the ideal of evidence-based medicine in which everyone supports a hierarchy of evidence. Others try to work out how they can improve the supply of evidence or set up new institutions to get policymakers to pay more attention to it.

Yet, a more pragmatic solution is to work out how and why policymakers demand information, and the political and complex policymaking context in which they operate. Only then can we produce evidence-based strategies based on how the world works rather than how we would like it to work. This new strategy requires new skills, such as the ability to turn a large amount of scientific evidence into simple and effective stories that appeal to the biases of policymakers, and to form alliances with key actors operating in many levels and types of government. It also requires scholars of policy to turn their scientific understanding of how policymaking works into a practical understanding of how to operate effectively within it.

This article collection brings together disciplinary and practitioner perspectives, about how to tell good stories, form networks, influence allies, understand politics enough to engage effectively within it, and simply be able to tell if decision-making processes are sufficiently ‘evidence-informed’.

Interested in contributing a paper for this collection? Read our call for papers.

Watch our related panel discussion on: 'Where next for evidence and policy in post-Brexit Britain?'

Read Prof Paul Cairney's personal blog for related discussion on the themes discussed in this collection.