Three lenses of evidence-based policy

Head, B. W. (2008) Three lenses of evidence-based policy. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 67 1: 1-11. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8500.2007.00564.x

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Author Head, B. W.
Title Three lenses of evidence-based policy
Journal name Australian Journal of Public Administration   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0313-6647
Publication date 2008-03-01
Year available 2008
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8500.2007.00564.x
Volume 67
Issue 1
Start page 1
End page 11
Total pages 11
Editor John Wanna
Patrick Bishop
Place of publication Melbourne, Australia
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Asia
Language eng
Subject C1
940204 Public Services Policy Advice and Analysis
160510 Public Policy
Abstract This article discusses recent trends to incorporate the results of systematic research (or ‘evidence’) into policy development, program evaluation and program improvement. This process is consistent with the New Public Management (NPM) emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness. Analysis of evidence helps to answer the questions ‘what works? and ‘what happens if we change these settings?’ Secondly, some of the well known challenges and limitations for ‘evidence-based’ policy are outlined. Policy decisions emerge from politics, judgement and debate, rather than being deduced from empirical analysis. Policy debate and analysis involves an interplay between facts, norms and desired actions, in which ‘evidence’ is diverse and contestable. Thirdly, the article outlines a distinction between technical and negotiated approaches to problem-solving. The latter is a prominent feature of policy domains rich in ‘network’ approaches, partnering and community engagement. Networks and partnerships bring to the negotiation table a diversity of stakeholder ‘evidence’, ie, relevant information, interpretations and priorities. Finally, it is suggested that three types of evidence/perspective are especially relevant in the modern era – systematic (‘scientific’) research, program management experience (‘practice’), and political judgement. What works for program clients is intrinsically connected to what works for managers and for political leaders. Thus, the practical craft of policy development and adjustment involves ‘weaving’ strands of information and values as seen through the lens of these three key stakeholder groups. There is not one evidence-base but several bases. These disparate bodies of knowledge become multiple sets of evidence that inform and influence policy rather than determine it.
Keyword Evidence-based policy
Policy development
Program management
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code

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Created: Sat, 14 Mar 2009, 00:34:06 EST by Robin Smith on behalf of Institute for Social Science Research