What is mechanistic evidence, and why do we need it for evidence-based policy?

Paper by Caterina Marchionni and Samuli Reijula: “It has recently been argued that successful evidence-based policy should rely on two kinds of evidence: statistical and mechanistic. The former is held to be evidence that a policy brings about the desired outcome, and the latter concerns how it does so. Although agreeing with the spirit of this proposal, we argue that the underlying conception of mechanistic evidence as evidence that is different in kind from correlational, difference-making or statistical evidence, does not correctly capture the role that information about mechanisms should play in evidence-based policy. We offer an alternative account of mechanistic evidence as information concerning the causal pathway connecting the policy intervention to its outcome. Not only can this be analyzed as evidence of difference-making, it is also to be found at any level and is obtainable by a broad range of methods, both experimental and observational. Using behavioral policy as an illustration, we draw the implications of this revised understanding of mechanistic evidence for debates concerning policy extrapolation, evidence hierarchies, and evidence integration…(More)”.