Building on the increased profile of evidence in policymaking, Sense About Science have launched their Evidence Matters campaign. In this blog Prateek Buch, policy director of the campaign, explains how it will celebrate good uses of evidence, expose misuse and, with your help, demonstrate public demand for the use of evidence in social policy.
In recent years we’ve seen the growth of online fact-checking, government setting up a series of What Works centres, and invaluable networks like the Alliance for Useful Evidence raising the profile of reliable evidence in policymaking. How can we make the most of these initiatives, and change our political culture to ensure the informed use of evidence in public policy?
We know that using evidence honestly and effectively makes politicians more democratically accountable and more likely to take decisions aligned with the public interest. We also know that evidence is often still ignored, misused or misrepresented. That’s why we’ve started Evidence Matters, to put public pressure on policymakers to use reliable evidence well.
Celebrating the good, calling out the bad
How will we build that pressure? We’ll celebrate the good use of evidence, which includes changing your mind when new evidence comes to light and expanding the use of experiments to work out what works to solve challenges ranging from obesity to dog fouling – no, really. We’ll expose the misuse of evidence, such as claims that grammar schools boost social mobility (they don’t), or the expansion of welfare programmes that have been shown not to work. And we’ll share insights that help tell reliable evidence apart from opinion, advocacy and political ideology – leading a discussion on how evidence can reduce, but not eliminate, uncertainty in policy choices.
Showing politicians that the public cares about evidence
As with any Sense About Science campaign, the success of Evidence Matters depends on our partner organisations, and on our supporters in civil society – it’s crucial that demand for evidence to be used well comes from public pressure. Democratic change needs popular demand. Our aim is to show policymakers that the public cares about how they use evidence, that through a popular discussion on how evidence is used, prompted by asking for evidence to hold public figures to account, we can transform the way policy is made.
I’m really pleased to be working with the Alliance and the British Psychological Society as our initial campaign partners, and I look forward to welcoming many more during the course of 2015.
Views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the Alliance for Useful Evidence. Join us (it’s free and open to all) and find out more about the how we champion the use of evidence in social policy and practice.