Policy maker use of evidence

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“For policy to bring positive change to people, it needs to be informed by the best available evidence and local knowledge. Producing robust evidence is just part of the policy change; we need to look at where that evidence is – or isn’t – being used by governments, and why. And while we have seen increasing interest in evidence-informed policy-making, relatively little attention has been paid to the political and organisational challenges of embedding a culture of evidence within government departments. What are the politics of how research-based evidence is used in policy-making: what factors influence decision-makers? What systems help or hinder research use? And how can the development community support robust evidence-informed policy-making?”

The keynote speaker, Rizal Sukma, Indonesian Ambassador to the UK, raised a number of issues including: 

  • the difference in policy making between totalitarian and democratic states, such as the increased difficulties in a democracy which requires greater public consultation and policy debate
  • important characteristics of the evidence, such as who provides it, its quality and whether the providers are independent
  • the disconnect between policy makers and researchers, including balancing normative and realist considerations
  • political calculations, especially effects of a policy on the image of a government keeping in mind the next election, the power of vested interests and balancing long- and short-term considerations
  • what determines which evidence is used, such as its ‘safety’ in terms of achieving outcomes, the evidence provider’s willingness to forego taking credit for the policy, no conflict of interest in procuring the evidence, and personal connection between the policy maker and the researcher.

These issues were embellished and debated by the following three panellists:

  • Ian Goldman, Head of Evaluation and Research, South African Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (via video link)
  • Justin Parkhurst, Associate Professor in Global Health Policy, London School of Economics
  • Penny Hawkins, Former Head of Evaluation, UK Department for International Development

and the chair:

  • Louise Shaxson, Research Fellow, Research and Policy in Development Programme, Overseas Development Institute.

The session “What drives the use of evidence within government?” was recorded at the Overseas Development Institute in the UK in December 2016. A second video recorded the question and answer session with the audience.

The videos are also available on: https://www.odi.org/events/4433-what-drives-use-evidence-within-government.

(1) Video (50 minutes): Panel on “What drives the use of evidence within government?” with Rizal Sukma, Ian Golman, Justin Parkhurst and Penny Hawkins and chaired by Louise Shaxson was recorded in December 2016. Online: https://youtu.be/5Wu_bXjmY0M?list=PL8sELjFjXUp_X3iHOXz0MYAcsUISSw-Ak

(2) Video (35 minutes): Question and answer session for “What drives the use of evidence within government?” recorded in December 2016. Online: https://youtu.be/gbIyRnMqMBE?list=PL8sELjFjXUp_X3iHOXz0MYAcsUISSw-Ak

Posted: March 2017

Last updated: March 2017