The Bennett Institute is launching a new research programme to examine decision-making in government. This will be led by new co-director Professor Dennis C. Grube whose research interests include political decision-making, administrative leadership, institutional memory, and the role of political rhetoric in public policy.
Work will look at how decisions are made and who makes them; From the black box of the cabinet room itself, through to the role played by senior civil servants, special advisers, and outside experts.
“Our political decision-making structures are forced to wrestle with extraordinary complexity in real time, at high speed, with imperfect information and low tolerance for error. We want to look at policy decision-making processes across a range of countries and systems; analyse how we should define and measure ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decisions, and examine what role institutional memory can play in helping us learn from the past,” says Grube, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), Cambridge, and Fellow of Girton College.
The programme includes three research themes:
First, 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.
Second, 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.
Third, 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?
The Decision-making in government programme joins the Bennett Institute’s already established three research pillars – Place, Progress and Productivity – as we rethink public policy in the age of disruption.