The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

What makes evidence-based policymaking such a useful myth?: The case of NICE guidance on bariatric surgery in the UK

Boswell, John (2017) What makes evidence-based policymaking such a useful myth?: The case of NICE guidance on bariatric surgery in the UK Governance

Record type: Article


There is widespread scepticism among policy scholars and practitioners about the move to rationalise policy making: the naive vision of ‘evidence-based policy’ is often contrasted with the reality of ‘policy-based evidence’. Yet the language of evidence-based policy making (EBPM) continues to dominate policy debate about complex and contested issues. In this paper, I explore this apparent paradox by looking at what makes EBPM such a useful myth for all sorts of policy actors. I do so with reference to the pioneering work of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), focusing specifically on its work in relation to bariatric surgery, a suite of controversial and drastic weight loss procedures. I show that the myth of EBPM has political, pragmatic and procedural utility in practice, allowing the organisation to set and administer guidelines on this uncertain, complex and contested treatment in ways which sustain buy-in and enable ongoing contestation.

Other EBPMpaper_Revised - Accepted Manuscript
Download (78kB)

More information

Accepted/In Press date: 18 February 2017
Keywords: Evidence-based policy making; rationality; policy practice; obesity; NICE
Organisations: Politics & International Relations


Local EPrints ID: 406450
ISSN: 0952-1895
PURE UUID: b2588d86-c498-4003-9b09-8865414409fe

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 10 Mar 2017 10:47
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 04:05

Export record


Author: John Boswell

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.