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The role of evidence in policy formation and implementation


3 September 2013

Release of report on the role of evidence in policy formation and implementation

Sir Peter Gluckman says New Zealand could be making much better use of science and evidence in informing policy development and implementation and he has suggested some actions that could help to achieve this.

In a report released today entitled The role of evidence in policy formation and implementation, Sir Peter presents the results of a survey of government agencies that he conducted. The survey looked at the knowledge, attitudes and practices toward the use of robust, research-derived evidence in the policy formation and evaluation process. Results showed that the current situation is inconsistent across government; there are some exemplary practices in the use of science for policy development, but also considerable room for improvement.

The report builds on Sir Peter’s previous discussion paper on the subject, Towards better use of evidence in policy formation (2011), and now makes specific recommendations on:

- Developing a standard set of protocols across government for obtaining and applying expert scientific advice;

- Extending the use of Departmental Chief Science Advisors to a number of ministries to strengthen science leadership in government departments and act as liaison between the knowledge producer and knowledge user communities;

- Using the community of such advisors to assist central agencies with longer-term planning, risk assessment and evaluation;

- Improving the use of government funds for research to assist policy formation; and

- Ensuring transparency regarding the use of research-informed data with respect to complex and controversial areas of decision-making where the public is directly or indirectly consulted.

“Good policy formation requires navigation through a complex and uncertain knowledge landscape,” says Sir Peter. “Policy makers must know where to source quality data and be able to assess it critically, both for robustness of the science and for applicability to the policy question at hand." All of this requires specialized skills and clear standard protocols for the translation of research-informed evidence into policy,” he says.

Positioning Departmental Science Advisors to help departments to make better use of quality evidence, and developing protocols to ensure that departments do this in a consistent way, are the two affordable actions with considerable potential for transformative impact on the policy environment and fit well with the Government’s efforts toward Better Public Services.



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