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Expertise and the politics of evidence-based policymaking

Examining how to best utilise expertise and evidence in support of efficient and balanced government decision-making.

The Covid pandemic has brought into sharper focus a long-standing question about how to best utilise expertise in support of government decision-making. The past two decades have seen governments around the world embrace the language of ‘evidence-based policy’ as a gold standard.

What remains less clear is how evidence interacts with politics in actual decision-making. Politicians must balance social, economic, environmental and other factors. Data and evidence are not always clear or robust and sometimes politicians and civil servants must do the best they can with what they have.

This research theme examines how both internal and external ‘experts’ contribute to decision-making. What is the appropriate standard for deciding whether a policy decision is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and how can decision-makers best get the balance right between speed and weighing up all the options?

This research theme looks to explore:

•  How governments build the evidence base that underpins a decision

  Political storytelling and the narrative framing of policy decisions

•  Speed of decision-making vs depth of evidence

•  What is the legitimate role of ‘experts’ in the policy decision-making process?

•  How do we define and measure ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decisions?


Image: At the Civil Service Gym” by is marked with CC0 1.0

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Professor Dennis Grube

Research lead in political decision-making

Dennis C. Grube is Professor of Politics and Public Policy at the University of Cambridge and research lead in political decision-making at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. Biography Dennis’...

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