Policy in Evidence (L1)

Is there a best practice for policy to meet the evidence?

It is important to make good evidence-based decisions. However, researchers are struggling with politicians not paying attention to their evidence. Politicians, on the other hand, are struggling with researchers not answering their simple questions, but rather telling complicated narratives. So why are these two groups not meeting? Should it not be clear that politicians need evidence and the scientists need action based on their results?

Paul Cairney, Rob Cook, Tanja Kuchenmüller, Milojka Kolar Celarc and Brigitte Piso each took the floor and presented fascinating viewpoints, while Josep Figueras led the discussion and passionately engaged the audience. Finally, Claudia Habl wisely summed up the fruitful session.

Josep Figueras inspired the panel and the audience.

Why do policymakers seem to ignore researchers’ evidence? Because as there are many politicians, there are also many different ideas of what counts as good evidence. In addition, politicians just have to ignore almost all the evidence since there is a lot of it. Finally, they cannot control the policy process, as it is complicated, explained Paul Cairney.

Milojka Kolar Celarc added that for policymakers it is not easy to get evidence, and even if they do get the evidence, it is not readable and understandable. She stated that it was highly important for politicians and researchers to speak the same language.

What kind of instruments are there to translate evidence for policymakers? The audience used its voice and voted for personal communication, policy briefs, infographics and lobbying. The white papers, research reports and active material, such as blogs and social media, were not considered that important. There is a conflict in the usual ways of communication within the researcher groups, because, of course: they are publishing mostly the research papers! And actually, if you look further, it might be so that the researchers do not want to cross the invisible line by recommending politicians to do something – rather, they want to stay objective and let the evidence speak for itself. So, when a politician asks “what to do” or “yes or no”, the researcher explains all the nuances of everything (actually it is not that far from the “political talk” – when a journalist asks yes or no, the politician explains all the nuances of everything – maybe eventually they do have the same language!)

So, is there a secret recipe, the golden best practice rule, to improve the process of evidence meeting policy? Obviously, communication is key: the researchers must synthetize the evidence and present it in a good and understandable way. The evidence must be contextualized because otherwise it would not be helpful. Other important ingredients are the networks and the understanding that the policy-making system is complex. Finally, a bonus idea may be to think further: according to audience vote, there should be “scientific knowledge officers” in government bodies. Maybe there will be a completely new profession in the future? Or should it already be both politicians and researchers’ responsibility?

The blog was written by the Young Gasteiner Pia Blomqvist


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