Evidence-based policy-making

Andreas Andersen, Niklas and Smith, Kat; Greve, Bent, ed. (2022) Evidence-based policy-making. In: De Gruyter Handbook of Contemporary Welfare States. De Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 29-44. ISBN 9783110721768 (https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110721768-003)

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The idea that public policies might usefully be improved by evidence (or, more strongly put, that policies ought to be evidence-based) is long-standing. However, official commitments to "Evidence-Based Policy-Making" (EBPM) are more recent, dating back to policy developments in the US and the UK in the 1990s. Since then, a vast research literature on EBPM has emerged. However, due to the rather fragmented nature of this literature and a general lack of cross-fertilisation, a number of fundamental questions remain unresolved. Questions about what constitutes "evidence"; what role evidence can and should play in policymaking processes and how the quest for EBPM affects the democratic legitimacy of policy-making. In the current chapter, we do not attempt to resolve these questions, but we argue that a first step is to further more comparative analysis on whether, how and why EBPM is playing out differently in contrasting geo-political contexts. The chapter thus briefly outlines how ideas and practices relating to EBPM have evolved in two different groups of welfare states: first, liberal welfare states, including the UK and the US, in which the idea of evidence-based policy has its philosophical foundations; and, second, the Nordic/social democratic welfare states, some of the earliest adopters and translators of the idea. The chapter concludes by highlighting the need for moving beyond an unattainable search for universally applicable mechanisms to increase evidence use, towards more complex and context specific understandings of how states can improve their approaches to using evidence, with a view to both improving policy outcomes and enhancing the democratic legitimacy of policymaking