Decision-making in government

Politics remains at the very centre of all public policy debates, as the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated in numerous ways. Good politics and good policy must operate together to arrive at good outcomes.

Data and evidence do not speak for themselves, nor does evidence-based policy get made in a political vacuum. Political decision-making structures are forced to wrestle with extraordinary complexity in real time, at high speed, with imperfect information and low tolerance for risk.

The political decision-making research programme examines how decisions are made in government. From the black box of the cabinet room itself, through to the role played by senior civil servants, special advisers, and outside experts, this programme examines current practice across a range of parliamentary democracies.

Projects in this programme, led by Dennis Grube, include:

Decision-making structures in government examines how cabinet government operates, including aspects like the influence of the prime minister’s office, the role and influence of senior civil servants and special advisers, and how opportunities for ‘challenge’ are built into the system. 

Institutional Memory as an aid to better decision-making studies the extent of the apparent demise of institutional memory in governments settings and – importantly – what can actually be done about it. It looks at how valuable stories of failure – and indeed of success – get passed on not only through files but through social interaction. 

Expertise and the politics of evidence-based policymaking looks at how to best utilise expertise in support of government decision-making. Some of the research questions include: how do governments build the evidence base that underpins a decision; what is the legitimate role of ‘experts’ in the policy decision-making process?; and how do we define and measure ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decisions?

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