Evidence-Based Policies in Developing Countries

Getting Evidence into Policy – Politics and Institutions

Speaker: Justin Parkhurst, Senior Lecturer, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and head of GRIP-Health (Getting Research into Policy in Health)
Date: March 19, 5.30-7.00 pm
Venue: Manson Lecture Theatre, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Keppel Street

This seminar highlights a number of problems with the currently dominant view of evidence-based policy making, and proposes a solution for developing countries focused on local institutional development. Policy making is not simply about the rational allocation of resources on the basis of value-free scientific evidence. Instead, it involves a range of political decisions about competing potential social outcomes. Even where there is agreement on the need for systematic and unbiased evidence use, policymakers must decide which social outcomes to prioritise and on which to gather evidence.

In theory, such decision making processes should reflect local citizens values and needs. Yet calls for ‘evidence-based policy’ and to ‘get research into policy’ often fail to recognise this critical governance component.

Much literature calls on researchers to use special connections to ensure their evidence findings are ‘taken up’. While the use of insider networks or policy entrepreneurs can no doubt be effective, it can also undermine concepts of good governance whereby political decisions are made in ways accountable to, and representative of, local populations.

This seminar argues that rather than pressing for ‘Evidence-Based Policy’ in ways that obscure the important political aspects of decision making, we should instead build the capacity of developing country institutions that can synthesise evidence in line with international best practices while remaining accountable to local populations.

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