An extended version of this blog post was originally published on Discover Society.
From the number of drug overdoses to annual average temperatures, public transportation ridership rates to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), government is inundated with data documenting social problems. In theory, these statistics should lead to more informed decision making. In practice, they are heavily politicized. Organized interests compete to ensure that their preferred statistic is adopted as the preferred measure of a given policy problem, a testament to these so-called “problem indicators” are important determinants of policy maker attention.
Virtually every major theory of policy making suggests indicators and other forms of information play an important role in stimulating issue attention and provoking policy maker action. My recent paper, “Indicators, agendas, and stream: Analysing the Politics of Preparedness,” applies the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF), which argues policy change is facilitated by the coupling of three distinct streams: (1) the problem stream, which consists of the various social issues competing for policy maker attention; (2) the policy stream, which encompasses the various policies and programs designed to address items in the problem stream; and (3) the politics stream, which broadly describes the current political environment, including trends in public opinion as well as the composition of government. Coupling is aided by a policy entrepreneur or an individual or organization willing to invest considerable amounts of time and energy to secure policy change. Once the three streams are coupled, a policy window is opened providing organized interests with an opportunity to push their pet issues onto the policy agenda and, ideally, secure policy change.Continue reading Data Matters…Sometimes: Revisiting the Connection between Problem Indicators and Policy Maker Attention→
From a prevailing, long-standing debate in the journal on the welfare state, we bring you a collection of our best and most recent articles. To highlight just a couple: Anthony McCashin’s How much change? Pierson and the welfare state revisited provides a structural overview of the impact of globalisation on analyses of the welfare state.
Try our new themed virtual issues which are free to download from 1-30 November:
Public Services and Reform
In this new virtual issue, we bring you our most impactful and recent research from diverse perspectives with a coherence of focus on increasing our understanding of public services and reform.
Free research articles for APPAM 2017 from Policy & Politics onthe importance of evidence-based policy making, why measurement matters and, Claire Dunlop on learning from failure.
In celebration of APPAM’s Fall Research Conference theme this year which looks at the importance of measurement in evaluating policy and performance, we have developed a virtual issue of recent research articles based on the conference theme which are free to access from 1-30 November. Just click on the hyperlinks below to go straight to the download page for each article.
The role of evidence in policy making, and whether evidence-based policy can ever be a reality, has attracted much debate, both inside and outside academia. In our article on what we refer to as ‘evidence translation’, we try to grapple with these issues. Our academic interest in this area stemmed from research we had conducted separately on similar themes (the role of evidence in policy making), but from different traditions and persuasions. Ingold had focused on ideas relating to ‘policy transfer’ in welfare to work, comparing Denmark with the UK. By contrast, Monaghan had concentrated efforts on understanding the standing of evidence in policy debates often seen, by critics, to be evidence free – in this case the area of UK drug policy. Our substantive areas were not a hindrance to our partnership. Instead, we were very much enthralled by some commentaries in the journal Policy & Politics (and elsewhere) that suggested that both evidence-based policy and policy transfer were fundamentally concerned with the same process, but were literatures that had emerged separately. It was, we felt, a hypothesis worth exploring, but more than that we quickly arrived at the conclusion that there was much to be learned by each literature from the other. Continue reading We still need ‘experts’: evidence translation in practice→
It remains the priority of policy makers to show that they have put in place well designed policies that have demonstrable effect, in order to give a good account of their time in office. Whilst many depictions of the policy process focus on something that is driven from the ‘top down’, implementation scholars have over several decades provided particular understanding of the ‘bottom-up’, looking more qualitatively at organisational responses to policy initiatives. Through developments in New Public Management to current research on policy design, studies have moved away from the dichotomous ‘top-down’ versus ‘bottom-up’ and yet the problem of how to understand policy implementation endures.
At the same time, the current drive for ‘evidence-based policy’ is premised on the belief that if policies can be designed on the best evidence, it is more likely that they will be implemented with measurable effect in terms of desired outcomes. Policy makers believe both in the positive effects of evidence behind the policy and the translation of that evidence-based policy into practice. In the UK health Continue reading Beyond top-down and bottom-up: how do we currently understand policy implementation?→
Working as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Public Health Unit, Dr Smith has expertise in the fields of policy construction and knowledge transfer in the field of healthcare; and this article exemplifies the salient and policy-relevant research in which she is engaged. In this article, Dr Smith seeks to account for the varying extent which research has informed policy-making in the field of health, despite the ostensible commitment to evidence-based policy-making by successive administrations across the United Kingdom. Continue reading The translation and re-circulation of ideas about health inequalities within policy→