SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 4 – Three top tips for better quality behavioural public policy research

Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.

cotterillSarah Cotterill

The quality of the reporting in behavioural public policy research is often poor, making it difficult for the reader to understand what the intervention was or how the research was done. In 2018 a review was published about choice architecture and nudges: behaviour change interventions where the environment or decision-taking context are designed in such a way that people are nudged toward more beneficial options. The review found 156 studies, and reported an excessive amount of bad practice: only two per cent followed a reporting guideline, only seven percent were informed by a power calculation, none of the studies were pre-registered and the descriptions of the interventions were non‐exhaustive, with frequently overlapping categories. The quality of many studies is too poor to allow meta-analysis and the behavioural interventions are not described in sufficient detail to delineate one from another or allow replication. Continue reading

SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 3 – Behavioural insights teams in practice: nudge missions and methods on trial

Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.

Ball and HeadSarah Ball and Brian W. Head

They go by a variety of names; nudge units, behavioural insights (BI) teams and behavioural economics teams. However, they all owe a debt to the pioneering work of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in the United Kingdom (UK). Based on behavioural research on the ‘irrational’ behaviours of citizens and/or policy target audiences, ‘nudge’ instruments have been tested through rigorous research in the form of randomised controlled trials. Using this approach, the BIT UK has had a significant impact on the policy innovation landscape across the globe. Teams have emerged in Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and many more countries.     

Our research recently published in Policy & Politics explores the BI phenomena as it emerged in Australia, from which we derive analysis relevant to global actors and governments engaged BI. In two independent exploratory studies, we sought to understand how such teams actually operate in practice. One study was an in-depth observational study of staff in the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA). The other was an interview-based study of three teams, namely, those operating in two state governments, New South Wales and Victoria, together with the Australian government’s BETA. Continue reading

Updated essential reading recommendations

Updating your course reading lists? Check out our essential reading recommendations for Public Policy, Politics and Social Policy from Policy & Politics.

All articles featured in this blog post are free to access until 31 December or Open Access. 

Oscar Berglund, Digital Associate Editor for Policy & Politics and Lecturer in International Public and Social Policy, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol.

As we embark on a year of online learning, keeping your module reading lists up to date with the latest research has never been more important. We hope to make this easier with the essential reading list below which features some of the most significant research relevant to public policy students that we’ve published over the last year. So here I introduce six articles and two special issues for teaching topical themes such as evidence-based policy, citizens’ assemblies, policy design and behavioural public policy.

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