A very good report on the role of evidence in policy formation and implementation from Sir Peter Gluckman. I am a fan of more use of evidence based policy.
Sir Peter notes:
All of this occurs within a complex and uncertain environment where human responses and decision-making are influenced by many factors other than well-informed knowledge. Indeed, as I have stated previously, my view is that quality evidence should be seen as base knowledge on which, in a democracy, multiple values and associated perspectives must be overlaid. However, where evidence is conflated with values, its power is diminished. Where evidence is not considered properly, the risk of less than desirable policy outcomes is inevitable.
For instance, it is possible for the research process to be corrupted by inputs that are not objective, or by the failure to recognise personal biases in bringing forward evidence. Researchers can become impassioned advocates for a cause that their expertise could meaningfully inform dispassionately
I can think of a number of areas, such as public health, where researchers are impassioned advocates to put it mildly.
They key recommendations are:
- Develop a standard set of protocols across government regarding obtaining expert scientific advice;
- Extend the use of Departmental Science Advisors (DSAs) more broadly across government;
- Use the community of DSAs and the Chief Science Advisor to assist central agencies with longer-term planning, risk assessment and evaluation;
- Improve and make more explicit the use of government funds for research to assist policy formation;
- Provide greater transparency regarding the use of research-informed data (or its absence) with respect to complex and controversial areas of decision-making where the public is directly or indirectly consulted.
I like the idea of each principal agency having a Departmental Science Advisor.