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The Impact of Science: How is evidence understood and valued in policymaking?

The Impact of Science: How is evidence understood and valued in policymaking?
The Impact of Science: How is evidence understood and valued in policymaking?
There is a sprawling academic and grey literature on the impact of science for policy. It takes in a wide range of academic disciplines, theoretical perspectives, and methodologies. This ‘viewpoint’ paper attempts to traverse and cut through this complex field, employing a narrative review to present how evidence is understood and valued in the policy process.
Evidence in the policy process is understood in three key ways that dominate thinking and practice in this field:
- An instrumental view of impact on specific policies, which prioritises investment in ‘gold standard’ science as a direct input for policy development
- A relational view of impact on policy programmes, which prioritises investment in knowledge brokers who can traverse science and policymaking
- A transformational view of impact on policy agendas, which prioritises investment in practices of co-production and mutual learning among scientists and policy actors
The literature also identifies three key values ascribed to the use of evidence in policymaking. Policy actors in and outside government regard investment in evidence for policy impact (in instrumental, relational or transformational terms) as having:
- Substantive value, as a means of overcoming uncertainty in managing complex policy issues;
- Pragmatic value, as a means of promoting and supporting specific courses of action amid significant complexity;
- Procedural value, as a means of managing and channelling political contestation amid competing values and clashing interests.
Bearing in mind these underlying views and values, a successful investment strategy to maximise the impact of science will likely entail a delicate balancing act. In particular, it will mean:
a) Accepting that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to developing and evaluating science for policy;
b) Acknowledging that every approach to developing and evaluating science for policy comes with challenges, limitations and trade-offs;
c) Using the skills of policy and political analysis to identify and continually re-evaluate ‘what works where’;
d) Learning from best practices across issues, sectors, and countries;
e) Adapting the established toolkits associated with these models and practices for context;
f) Remaining patient in the face of political expediencies, budgetary constraints and failure.
impact, evidence-based policy, public policy
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Boswell, John
34bad0df-3d4d-40ce-948f-65871e3d783c
Boswell, John
34bad0df-3d4d-40ce-948f-65871e3d783c

Boswell, John (2020) The Impact of Science: How is evidence understood and valued in policymaking? London. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 26pp. (In Press)

Record type: Monograph (Project Report)

Abstract

There is a sprawling academic and grey literature on the impact of science for policy. It takes in a wide range of academic disciplines, theoretical perspectives, and methodologies. This ‘viewpoint’ paper attempts to traverse and cut through this complex field, employing a narrative review to present how evidence is understood and valued in the policy process.
Evidence in the policy process is understood in three key ways that dominate thinking and practice in this field:
- An instrumental view of impact on specific policies, which prioritises investment in ‘gold standard’ science as a direct input for policy development
- A relational view of impact on policy programmes, which prioritises investment in knowledge brokers who can traverse science and policymaking
- A transformational view of impact on policy agendas, which prioritises investment in practices of co-production and mutual learning among scientists and policy actors
The literature also identifies three key values ascribed to the use of evidence in policymaking. Policy actors in and outside government regard investment in evidence for policy impact (in instrumental, relational or transformational terms) as having:
- Substantive value, as a means of overcoming uncertainty in managing complex policy issues;
- Pragmatic value, as a means of promoting and supporting specific courses of action amid significant complexity;
- Procedural value, as a means of managing and channelling political contestation amid competing values and clashing interests.
Bearing in mind these underlying views and values, a successful investment strategy to maximise the impact of science will likely entail a delicate balancing act. In particular, it will mean:
a) Accepting that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to developing and evaluating science for policy;
b) Acknowledging that every approach to developing and evaluating science for policy comes with challenges, limitations and trade-offs;
c) Using the skills of policy and political analysis to identify and continually re-evaluate ‘what works where’;
d) Learning from best practices across issues, sectors, and countries;
e) Adapting the established toolkits associated with these models and practices for context;
f) Remaining patient in the face of political expediencies, budgetary constraints and failure.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 1 December 2020
Keywords: impact, evidence-based policy, public policy

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 445486
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/445486
PURE UUID: 93fc22b9-fa88-4edc-81e4-81409bcfcde2
ORCID for John Boswell: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3018-8791

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 11 Dec 2020 17:30
Last modified: 13 Dec 2021 03:12

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