Evidence-based policy and policy as ‘translation’: designing a model for policymaking

Jo Ingold  and Mark Monaghan at the LSE Politics and Policy Blog: “It’s fair to say that research has never monopolised the policy process to the extent that policies are formulated solely, or even primarily, upon evidence. At the same time, research is never entirely absent from the process nor is it always exploited to justify a pre-existing policy stance as those who pronounce that we that we are now in an era of policy based evidence would have us believe. Often the reality lies somewhere in the middle. A number of studies have looked at how evidence may or may not have impacted on the policy decision-making process. Learning from other contexts, or ‘policy transfer’ is one other way of harnessing particular kinds of evidence, focusing on the migration of policies from one jurisdiction to another, whether within or across countries. Studies have begun to move away from theories of direct transfer to consider the processes involved in movement of ideas from one area to another. In effect, they consider the ‘translation’ of evidence and policy.

Our research brings together the evidence-based policymaking and ‘policy as translation’ literatures to try to shed light on the process by which evidence is used in policymaking. Although these literatures have developed separately (and to a large extent remain so) we see both as, at root, being concerned with the same issues, in particular how ideas, evidence and knowledge are integrated into the policymaking process. With EBPM there is a stated desire to formulate policies based on the best available evidence, while ‘policy as translation’ focuses on the ‘travel of ideas’ and views the policy process as fluid, dynamic and continually re-constituting, rather than a linear or rational ‘transfer’ process….

The Evidence Translation Model is intended to be recursive and includes five key dimensions which influence how evidence, ideas and knowledge are used in policy:

  • The substantive nature of the policy problem in the context of the Zeitgeist
  • Agenda-setting – where evidence is sought (fishing/farming) and what evidence is used
  • The filtration processes which shape and mould how evidence is used (flak/strain)
  • The policy apparatus for policy design and implementation
  • The role of ‘evidence translators’

Evidence Translation Model

work model
Source: Policy & Politics 2016 (44:2)

Our research draws attention to what is perceived to be evidence and at what stage of the policymaking process it is used….(More; See also authors’ article in Policy & Politics)”.