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  4. The Politics of Evidence: from Evidence Based Policy to the Good Governance of Evidence




The Politics of Evidence: from Evidence Based Policy to the Good Governance of Evidence




Speaker: Dr Justin Parkhurst

Abstract: There has been an enormous increase in interest in the use of evidence for public policy making, but the vast majority of work on the subject has failed to engage with the political nature of decision making and how this influences the ways in which evidence will be used (or misused) within political arenas. Yet much more limited has been consideration of the nature of political bias with regards to evidence to consider what an ‘improved’ use of evidence would look like from a policy making perspective. This talk will discuss the recent open-access book The Politics of Evidence, which explores the concern of evidence advocates that political interests drive the mis­use or manipulation of evidence, as well as counter-concerns of critical policy scholars about how appeals to ‘evidence-based policy’ can depoliticise political debates. Both concerns reflect forms of bias – the first representing technical bias, whereby evidence use violates principles of scientific best practice, and the sec­ond representing issue bias in how appeals to evidence can shift political debates to particular questions or marginalise policy-relevant social concerns. It is argued the fields of policy studies and cognitive psychology can help to understand the origins and mechanisms of both forms of bias in relation to politi­cal interests and values. These insights, however, lead to a need to consider what constitutes ‘good evidence for policy’, as well as the ‘good use of evidence’ within policy processes. It concludes by arguing there is a need to build evidence-advisory institutions that embed key principles of both scientific good practice and democratic representation. Taken as a whole, the approach promoted is termed the ‘good governance of evidence’ – a concept that represents the use of rigorous, systematic and technically valid pieces of evidence within decision-making processes that are representative of, and accountable to, populations served.

Bio: Dr Justin Parkhurst is an Associate Professor of Global Health Policy in the LSE Department of Health Policy and an honorary Senior Lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is a member of the Thematic Working Group on Translating Evidence into Action with Health Systems Global. Dr Parkhurst recently led a 5-year programme of work on Getting Research Into Policy in Health (the GRIP-Health programme) funded by the European Research Council – which has produced a number of outputs and publications (most open access) on the politics and governance of evidence. His current research interests lie in global health politics and policy, as well as the political nature of evidence use to inform policy decisions.

He is currently leading (jointly with Dr. Clare Wenham) a Wellcome Trust supported project on Building the Case for Health Sciences Research in Africa (2018-2020) and I am currently a co-investigator on the LINK-Data for Decision Making project - – a DFID-supported programme of work that strengthens the use of data for malaria decision-making in Africa.

Twitter: @justinparkhurst

Publications (many free open access) available at:

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When and where

12.45pm - 2.00pmMonday 29th April 2019

MG26 City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom