Journal Manager, Policy & Politics
This quarter’s collection highlights three of our most popular individual research articles downloaded in 2020. As so often typifies these collections, all the articles featured demonstrate one of the main hallmarks of Policy & Politics in foregrounding the politics of the policy-making process.
In our first article, the limits of localism: a decade of disaster on homelessness in England, authors Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Hal Pawson and Beth Watts observe from their ten year study that localism has a tendency to disadvantage socially marginalised groups. Through a rigorous mixed methods investigation, they contest the view of localism as a progressive model and argue for the importance of centralism in certain contexts.
In our second article, authors Eleanor MacKillop, Sarah Quarmby and James Downe investigate the question does knowledge brokering facilitate evidence-based policy? The point of departure for their review article is the fundamental premise of knowledge brokering that if only policy could be better informed by evidence, it would be more efficient, effective and deliver better outcomes. They observe that huge resources are being invested into knowledge brokering so it is important to know what we mean by it, how it is being applied and whether it works.
Following an extensive literature review, they find that the 3,000 articles collected focus on largely similar points, such as identifying ‘how to’ models applied without consideration of the particular context. They argue that these are often problematic when applied to specific contexts because they are formulated in isolation from the real world and its politics. In addition, they observe that many articles make recommendations that are little more than common sense – e.g. don’t use jargon, relationships are important etc.– and so are of little value.
They conclude that policy-making is complex and messy: research evidence competes with political agendas, electoral tactics, the political cycle, other stakeholders’ interests, technical, bureaucratic and political feasibility, costs and gripping stories. They call for more critical research to contest the current dominant apolitical view and investigate how and why brokering is used so extensively in policy and with what outcomes.
Our final article is entitled Policy windows and multiple streams: an analysis of alcohol pricing policy in England. Through his case, author Benjamin Hawkins uses a multiple streams policy analysis framework to explain the failure to enact minimum unit pricing for alcohol in England, following legislation passed in Scotland. In this way he demonstrates the importance of high-level political commitment to controversial policy issues – even those with strong supporting evidence and a precedent for the introduction in related settings. He highlights the important role that civil society actors can play, not just by bringing policy issues onto the agenda and promoting policy responses, but by supporting government decisions to pursue these measures once announced.
In diverse ways, all three of our featured articles demonstrate the journal’s commitment to investigate the complexities of policy making and elucidate it as the highly politicised and messy activity it inevitably is.
Articles featured in this collection are Open Access:
Fitzpatrick, Suzanne; Pawson, Hal; Watts, Beth (2020) ‘The limits of localism: a decade of disaster on homelessness in England‘ [Open Access], Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557320X15857338944387
MacKillop, Eleanor; Quarmby, Sarah; Downe, James (2020) ‘Does knowledge brokering facilitate evidence-based policy? A review of existing knowledge and an agenda for future research’ [Open Access], Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557319X15740848311069
Hawkins, Benjamin; McCambridge, Jim (2020) Policy windows and multiple streams: an analysis of alcohol pricing policy in England [Open Access], Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557319X15724461566370