This report discusses the use of research-based evidence in policymaking. It is based on interviews with six ministries/directorates general in the UK, Netherlands, Finland and the European Commission and forms part of a larger project of the Danish Council for Research and Innovation Policy (DFiR), which aims to study and improve Danish practice.
Historically, the new public management movement has been an important driver for using a mixture of research-based evidence and monitoring data in policymaking. A more recent impetus has been the idea – heavily promoted by the Blair and Obama governments but increasingly becoming orthodox – that policy should be based on ‘what works’, rather than on ideology. The financial crisis has increased the importance of evidence by reducing government funding for both making and implementing policy and making it even more important that scarce budget is used effectively.
Policymakers have to manage a ‘dynamic inconsistency’ between the pace of evidence generation and the needs of current and future policies. They need a mix of rapidly available evidence to underpin short-term decision-making and programmes of longer-term work that help them address likely future evidence needs. Foresight and related techniques are becoming more attractive because it provides a way to think about future evidence needs (as opposed to being a way to satisfy those needs).