Category Archives: Public Policy

Behavioural insights teams in practice: nudge missions and methods on trial

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 Behavioural insights teams in practice: nudge missions and methods on trial

Design special issue highlights collection – free to access from 31 July 2020 – 31 October 2020

Sarah BrownSarah Brown
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

This quarter’s highlights collection brings to you a selection of articles from our incredibly popular special issue on Policymaking as designing: the added value of design thinking for public administration and public policy.

Published earlier this year, this special issue brings together a collection of papers that have taken design of public policy and administration seriously, in a variety of different and practical ways. The papers demonstrate that not only are there many examples of design approaches being implemented, but that there is much to learn about how we make the best use of these to improve public policy and administration and the design of public services. Continue reading Design special issue highlights collection – free to access from 31 July 2020 – 31 October 2020

Exploring the role of the state in the depoliticisation of UK Transport Policy: Reflections through the lens of COVID-19

Reardon and MarsdenLouise Reardon and Greg Marsden

At the height of the pandemic in the UK, the government order was to ‘stay home, protect the National Health Service, save lives’. The public were told not to travel to their place of work unless that work was essential (and couldn’t be done from home), told not to leave the house for anything but essential groceries, medication or to support the vulnerable, and in doing so advised not to travel on public transport unless there was no alternative. As a consequence travel demand plummeted: motor traffic down by 73% compared to pre-outbreak levels, rail journeys down 90%, London Underground journeys down 94%, and bus journeys in London down 83%. While the current context is very different to the one we wrote our new Policy & Politics article in, it highlights the puzzle that initially caught our attention. Continue reading Exploring the role of the state in the depoliticisation of UK Transport Policy: Reflections through the lens of COVID-19

Are responses to official consultations and stakeholder surveys reliable guides to policy actors’ positions?

Karin IngoldKarin Ingold

Policy scholars are interested in the positions and preferences of politically involved actors. Those preferences can either serve as independent variables (for example, to explain coordination among or the strategic behaviour of actors), or as dependent variables (for example to evaluate actors’ coherence over time). But how do I identify these policy positions or preferences? Should I perform interviews or code the official statements of actors involved in policymaking? How valuable are my survey results in comparison to media data? These are typical questions concerning methods of data gathering and there are unlikely to be absolute answers to the question of which is the best method. However, our recent Policy & Politics article contributes to the discussion regarding these questions and is based on unique data drawn from three cases. Using these data, it compares actor statements about policies, gathered once through surveys and once through text coding official statements. Continue reading Are responses to official consultations and stakeholder surveys reliable guides to policy actors’ positions?

Virtual issue on Working with citizens and changing behaviours

p&p editorsSarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews,
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

New virtual issue from Policy & Politics: Working with citizens and changing behaviours

In this month’s virtual issue we showcase our latest research on the topic of the state working with citizens and changing behaviours. As governments grapple with the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking behavioural change will be a key measure in the easing of lockdowns and the maintenance of social distancing,  Against this backdrop, the articles below provide a series of instructive lessons. Continue reading Virtual issue on Working with citizens and changing behaviours

P&P annual prize announcement

P&P prize winners

By Sarah Ayres, Felicity Matthews and Steve Martin
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

We are delighted to announce the 2020 prizes for award winning papers published in Policy & Politics in 2019. Continue reading P&P annual prize announcement

Virtual issue on Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

p&p editors Sarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews,
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

New virtual issues from Policy & Politics:
Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

During the current coronavirus global health crisis, we reflect on the lessons learned in policy response terms from our most recent published research featuring crises in a range of diverse environments. Continue reading Virtual issue on Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

Policy & Politics Highlights collection on the role of politics in policymaking free to access from 1st May – 31st July 2020

Sarah BrownSarah Brown
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

The intellectual aims of the journal Policy & Politics are varied, but if we could only choose one hallmark that signifies a ‘Policy & Politics article’, it would be to foreground the politics of the policy-making process and advance our understanding of that analytical field. Our three featured articles this quarter do precisely that, yet within significantly different theoretical and empirical contexts (pluralism being another hallmark of P&P). Continue reading Policy & Politics Highlights collection on the role of politics in policymaking free to access from 1st May – 31st July 2020

How minimum unit pricing for alcohol almost happened in England and what this says about the political dynamic of the UK

hawkinsBenjamin Hawkins

The UK Government’s Alcohol Strategy (GAS), published in March 2012, unexpectedly included a commitment to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in England, following the adoption of similar measures by the Scottish Government. Yet just 16 months later, the introduction of MUP was placed on hold indefinitely. Our recent article published in Policy and Politics seeks to explain how and why MUP came so unexpectedly onto the policy agenda in England, before disappearing just as suddenly, and what this tells us about the evolving political dynamics of post-devolution and post-Brexit Britain.

In Scotland, MUP passed into law at the second attempt in 2012 and came into force in 2018 following a six-year legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association and other industry actors. The emergence of MUP as a viable policy option was, however, a ‘cross-border’ process with developments in Scotland inextricably linked to those ‘down South’, particularly the support for, and background work on, alcohol pricing within the Department of Health. Following its adoption in Scotland, a ’policy window’ opening in which MUP came onto the policy agenda in England also. However, this proved to be short lived. Our article argues that the success of MUP in Scotland and its failure in England can largely be explained in terms of the differing levels of political commitment to the policy in each context. Continue reading How minimum unit pricing for alcohol almost happened in England and what this says about the political dynamic of the UK

Claiming and Assigning Credit for Fulfilled Policy Promises – Why Policymakers Fight an Uphill Battle

KonigPascal D. König & Markus B. Siewert

A key promise of representative democracy is that the government strives to generate public policy outputs which are responsive to the preferences of (a majority of) the people. If it delivers on its policy promises, a government can expect to gain or maintain support in the electorate, but if it fails to do so, it is likely to be sanctioned at the next election. This amounts to a central – albeit perhaps somewhat romanticising – rationale behind political competition driving policymakers to do their job.  Continue reading Claiming and Assigning Credit for Fulfilled Policy Promises – Why Policymakers Fight an Uphill Battle