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’.

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.

All papers submitted to Collections are subject to the journal’s standard editorial criteria and policies. This includes the journal’s policy on competing interests.

Where next for evidence and policy in post-Brexit Britain?

Thursday 22 June, 2017

Full event recording

The referendum on Brexit highlighted a major disconnect in the treatment of scientific evidence and expert advice. Michael Gove’s phrase ‘people in this country have had enough of experts’ has been used frequently to describe some public scepticism of elite expert advice in salient issues driven by emotion and belief. Yet, the Remain campaign relied heavily on expert backing and the UK government has developed less visible but significant moves to strengthen institutions for scientific advice and evidence-informed policymaking. Much of the detail of policy is processed out of the public spotlight, in bureaucratic arenas where experts tend to be well represented. The UK’s new Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) has earmarked fifty-seven policy areas that will be significantly affected by Brexit and, in each case, the role of expertise may shift to reflect shifts in policymaking. Ensuring that UK policymakers have access to the best available evidence and advice in support of the Article 50 negotiations is clearly crucial. This prompts us to ask: what is, and should be, the future of ‘evidence-based policymaking’ and how should ‘experts’ engage to make sure that their evidence is heard?

This panel event explored the role of and responses to experts and expertise in the changing political landscape in regards to evidence and policymaking in post-Brexit Britain.

Chair: Professor James Wilsdon (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield)







Watch all the presentations from the event by clicking on the links below.

Call for papers

We are currently inviting submissions for a related article collection ("special issue") on The Politics of Evidence-based Policymaking: Maximising the Use of Evidence in Policy guest edited by Professor Paul Cairney (Professor of Politics and Public Policy, Division of History and Politics, University of Stirling, UK)