Politicising science: necessary, not evil

warren-hartleyWarren Pearce & Sarah Hartley

Depoliticisation is a key trend identified in the political science literature in recent years, succinctly defined by Flinders and Wood as “the narrowing of the boundaries of democratic politics”. Henrik Bang identifies “big politics” as a root cause of depoliticisation, where ‘star quality’ politicians, academics and others dominate the public debate, squeezing out the less powerful and eroding the links between authority and the public. If citizens feel constrained by such parameters of politics, then perhaps it is unsurprising when they vote for radical options such as leaving the European Union or electing Donald Trump to the US presidency. So here, depoliticisation is a means of suppressing debate, only for it to erupt at a later point in the political process. Continue reading

How should public sector policymakers understand the social value of socially innovative services?

christopher-daysonChristopher Dayson, Sheffield Hallam University

Social innovations provide new ways of addressing entrenched social problems that are more effective, sustainable or fair than existing ways of working. They create value for society as a whole rather than for private individuals. Public sector policymakers like the idea of social innovation because it offers them new and exciting ways to support people with multiple and complex needs in ways that can also save money: a combination that is increasingly referred to as ‘social value’. This is important because, since 2012, social value has been enshrined in law through the Public Services (Social Value) Act which requires public bodies to take account of economic, social and environmental well-being impacts when commissioning and procuring services. However, and despite its legal status, social value remains something of a fuzzy concept and there is very little good quality evidence about the types of value that social innovation leads to and how this is understood by policy makers.

Our research, summarised in our recent Policy & Politics article entitled Evaluating social innovations and their contribution to social value, explored one prominent area of social innovation – social prescribing – to identify the broad range of social value that can result from a socially innovative pilot project. Continue reading

Scientific evidence in referendum campaigns: politicisation or enrichment?

Digital Printing SystemCaroline Schlaufer

An extended version of this post was originally published  in the Policy Briefing section of Discover Society which is provided in collaboration with the journal Policy & Politics. The original post is available at http://discoversociety.org/category/policy-briefing/.

Referendums are increasingly used worldwide to allow citizens to directly decide about important policy issues. However, there is growing concern about whether citizens are properly informed when they make their choice in these usually complex referendum questions. For example, many commentators and editorials have argued in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum that facts and scientific evidence was politicised and not correctly used during the referendum campaign. Citizens, so it is argued, had made their decisions based on twisted facts.

However, in the context of a referendum campaign, facts, data and scientific evidence are always used politically. In other word, politicians, interest groups and governments always select those findings and data that fit their position and interpret scientific evidence in accordance with their political conviction. So yes, scientific evidence is politicized in referendum campaigns, but is this necessarily a bad thing? Based on the findings of a multiyear research project on the political use of scientific evidence in Swiss direct-democratic campaigns, I argue that scientific evidence, even when politically used, has the potential to enrich a referendum campaign in several ways. Continue reading

Five things that explain Donald Trump’s stunning presidential election victory

Anthony J. Gaughan, Professor of Law, Drake University

This post was originally published on The Conversation on 9 November 2016. The original post is available at: https://theconversation.com/five-things-that-explain-donald-trumps-stunning-presidential-election-victory-66891.

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Trump supporters celebrate on Nov. 8, 2016. John Locher/AP

A populist wave that began with Brexit in June reached the United States in stunning fashion on Tuesday night. In one of the biggest upsets in American political history, Donald Trump won a truly historic victory in the U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s remarkably decisive win stunned most political pundits, myself included. Throughout the campaign, Trump seemed to have a polling ceiling of about 44 percent and he consistently had the highest unfavorability rating of any major party nominee in history. Accordingly, months ago I predicted that Clinton would easily beat Trump.

Then, at the beginning of October, the uproar over Trump’s lewd and offensive remarks on the “Access Hollywood” videotape, combined with the escalating number of women who accused Trump of sexual assault, seemed to finish off his campaign. Right up until Tuesday afternoon, therefore, a comfortable victory for Clinton seemed like a foregone conclusion.

But I was dead wrong. Trump won a sweeping victory in the presidential race. His night began with critical victories in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, three states essential to his path to 270 electoral votes. As the night wore on, Clinton’s “blue wall” collapsed amid a red tide that swept across the country from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains. The blue states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa fell to Trump like dominoes. The election returns made clear that Trump would carry over 300 electoral votes, more than enough to win the presidency.

It’s extremely early to draw conclusions about the 2016 election results, but here are five factors that at least partially explain what happened. Continue reading

Undermining needs-based social security

alexmarsh-300x168An extended version of this post was originally published on 3 November 2016 on the blog of the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. The original post is available at http://policystudies.blogs.ilrt.org/

Alex Marsh, Chair of the Policy & Politics Management Board and also Professor of Public Policy at the University of Bristol and a leading academic on housing, anticipates some consequences of Monday’s roll out of the Coalition’s policy to lower the cap on benefits. It doesn’t make optimistic reading…

Undermining needs-based social security
We are about to see one of the welfare policies of the late, only occasionally lamented Coalition government bear particularly ugly fruit. Next Monday the process of lowering the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) from £26,000 per year begins. Over the coming months the policy will be rolled out across the country, with the cap being reduced to £20,000 outside London and £23,000 in London. Continue reading