Understanding Evidence Based Policy

gkcfWhat is evidence–based policy making?

Credible and appropriate evidence dictates what measures are pursued, instead of theories and political opinions. Moreover, Evidence Based Policy (EBP) aims to be transparent with producers and consumers of research by highlighting what can and cannot be deduced from existing evidence.

Any evidence influencing the policy must also have no political interference. This helps guarantee that policy decisions are based on community/country needs, as opposed to a desire to gain favour amongst voters.

Essentially, policymakers and researchers must consciously refrain from interpreting the evidence from a lens of their own beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions.

What are the difficulties of evidence based public policy?

Collecting evidence is time–intensive and consequently, governments often must make decisions before data can be fully assembled and analysed.

There is the risk that evidence could be misinterpreted to justify decisions that are not in the public interest.

The quality of evidence can vary considerably. For example, anecdotal recall of job losses in a local area does not have the same credibility as a systematically compiled data–set of employment rates.

When little evidence already exists regarding a policy issue, researchers often adopt a Practice–Based Evidence approach to gathering information. Typically, this entails evaluating policy ideas and generating evidence simultaneously in order to judge the effectiveness of measures, as opposed to waiting for all evidence to be published which can be time consuming.

Merits of evidence–based policy.

It advocates for a rigorous and systematic approach to policy issues, which helps build a valid understanding of the problem and the factors that will be involved in delivering solutions.

Encourages the collection of information that could be useful for the organisations and bodies implementing the policy to use to inform their work.

Creates mechanisms that will collect evidence for future policy work.


Evidence based policy in action.

A notable example of evidence based public policy in action is the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) energy efficient products measure.

Part 1: Decide on a problem to address.

During the 1990s and early 2000s approximately 1/3 of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions resulted from the use of personal, household, and industrial appliances.

Part 2: Devise possible policy measures to help remedy the issue.

The proposed policy mandated that appliance manufacturers label the energy efficiency rating of their products for consumers and provide tax incentives for those who produced products that met the highest energy efficiency standards.

Thereby, helping remove products from the market with high emissions and promoting the sales of more energy efficient products.

Part 3: Gather expert objective evidence in relation to the proposed measures– both for and against.

Economic impact calculations illuminated that the policy’s net benefits to UK society would be £26 billion (£41 billion in benefits, against a cost of £15 billion over the period 2009 – 2030).

Moreover, promoting the use of energy efficient appliances would help the UK meet emissions targets set by the 2008 Climate Change Act, which mandates that annual greenhouse gas emissions decline by 80% in 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

Part 4: Decide whether or not to adopt the policy proposal.

Essentially, evidence proved that the policy would result in financial and environmental benefits for the UK.

Therefore, the policy was adopted 2009 and remains in place.


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