Evidence-Based Policy-Making

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This topic is becoming important for Geographical study. Geographers involved in studying the decision-making process widely draw on the work of political scientists. Policy-makers, researchers, and the public alike, are now increasingly concerned about the evidence-base for decision-making.

Do you remember the debates before the 2015 General Election in the UK? The BBC, as well as several other organisations, set up a fact-checking service to try and help the public understand where politicians were getting their numbers from, and what evidence they were based on! This gets right to the heart of evidence-based policy-making. Many scientists have argued that policy-makers are taking decisions without using evidence. Instead, policy-makers might be making decisions based on their own opinions. This might lead them to make an unwise decision, so it is important that evidence is used in policy-making.

The resources in this topic will help you to delve into the complicated process of policy-making, and find out how researchers are trying to encourage policy-makers to use more evidence in their decisions. This article, written by a Geographer (Rose, 2014), will be useful throughout this topic. Firstly, look at the Venn diagram (the one with circles!) in the article below:

So you can see that evidence is only one factor that politicians take into account when making a decision. They also have to consider lots of other competing issues, and their own opinions, values, and prejudices could be seen as more important than the evidence. If you’ve already completed Topic 4 on climate change, you might remember that proving that climate change is real doesn’t automatically mean that policy-makers will do anything about it. Providing conclusive evidence is only one part of the policy-making process! Use the following resources to investigate this further.

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