Real world policy – 3 Free eBooks

Further to my previous post about public engagement in policy deliberations, public policy advocates will be well aware of the debate over whether ‘evidence-based policy’ (EBP) takes sufficient account of political realities.

Most of us who have engaged in this activity realise that our messages need to be sensitive to the values of the stakeholders in any given debate. Accusations that EBP advocates suffer ‘technical bias’, or the contrary view that opponents to scientific evidence suffer ‘issue bias’ can polarise the situation, and so a more pragmatic middle ground is worth considering.

For those keen to gain greater insight into this debate, without having to spend a fortune on rare references, three free e-books offer stimulating perspectives on the uses of evidence in policy advocacy and policymaking. Each in its own way addresses the ‘real world’ use of evidence to improve policy outcomes, and explores measures that can overcome some of the resistance to evidence-informed policy.  Links and extracts appear below:

parkhurstcovJustin Parkhurst’s The Politics of Evidence (Routledge, 2017 – 198 pages, 2.7Mb)

“… policymaking fundamentally involves competition between multiple social goals and the pursuit of social values. As such, there are additional concerns that this brings to the table, such as which social interests are addressed by evidence in the first place, whether these interests are more or less transparent in policy debates, or if they are pursued through more or less representative processes.” (Parkhurst, 2017:24)


cairneycovPaul Cairney’s The Politics of Evidence-Based Policy Making (pre-submission draft, 2015 – 107 pages, 1.01Mb)

In the real world, the evidence is contested, the policy process contains a large number of influential actors, scientific evidence is one of many sources of information, and policymakers base their decisions on a mixture of emotions, knowledge and short cuts to gather relevant evidence.” (Cairney, 2015:32)


usingsciasevidenceK. Prewitt, T.A. Schwandt, and M.L. Straf, Editors.  Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy. National Research Council (2012). Committee on the Use of Social Science Knowledge in Public Policy, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

“... evidence-influenced politics is a more informative formulation than evidence-based policy. It is descriptively informative in the sense that it occurs whenever scientific evidence enters into political deliberations about policy options, and this occurs much more regularly than the apolitical, narrowly focused activities characteristic of evidence-based policy” (Prewitt et al, 2012:14)

As a very topical illustration of the wider recognition of the need to take social values into consideration when deliberating on policy, the newly announced endorsement of the Uluru Statement from the Heart by BHP and Rio Tinto and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia must be welcomed.

Contact me on 0419 347 599 if your policy or advocacy team would like to explore evidence-informed policy.

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