Postponed: How Should We Approach Evidence for Policy?

12 June 2018, 12:00 - 14:00

Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Unfortunately, we have had to postpone this seminar until the next academic year, 18–19. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Nancy Cartwright (Durham)
Eleonora Montuschi (LSE)



Nancy Cartwright
Evidence for Policy Prediction: Intervention-centred or Context-centred?

There are two approaches to thinking about evidence for predicting policy effects in situ – here and now. One is Intervention-centred; the other, Context-centred. This presentation will lay out the central differences between the two, describe situations where one would likely be far better than the other, and outline their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Not surprisingly, the intervention-centred is more ‘manualisable’ since it depends primarily on business as usual in the sciences, whereas context centring constitutes a kind of social technology and requires amalgamating evidence in a case-by-case manner with no well-rehearsed methodology to fall back on.

That makes troubles for us. Because when it comes to actual success in situ, context matters. So we must beware of putting all our eggs in the easier-to-manage intervention-centred basket. Recent emphasis on ‘what works for whom where’ moves the two approaches a little closer together, but not enough, I worry, to do the job well.

Eleonora Montuschi
Using Science, Making Policy: What Should We Worry About?

How does science enter policy making, and for what purpose? Surely consulting scientific facts in making policy is done with a view to making policy decisions more reliable, and ultimately more objective. In this paper I address the way/s by which science contributes to achieving objectivity in policy making and social debate, and argue that objectivity is not exhausted by what scientific evidence contributes to either. In policy making and social debates, scientific evidence is taken into account alongside other relevant factors (political, social, economic, ethical, etc.). Such complex contexts of practical interaction constitute a challenge both for the objectivity of scientific evidence (how far should science let extra-scientific factors interfere with scientific facts, without endangering the objectivity of evidence?), and for the objectivity of the role of the scientist in the policy-making process (is he/she only to inform policy, and only on matters of scientific evidence? Or should they also ultimately advise on what to do, running the risk of becoming partial on matters of evidence?) I analyse a case study – the ongoing debate over the spread of bovine TB in the UK – that displays some of the worries and several of the aspects we ought to keep in mind when we bring scientific objectivity to bear on social debate and policy making. I argue in favour of a picture where scientific objectivity enters a productive and effective dialogue with practical objectivity.

Open to all. No registration required.
Part of The Politics of Economics Research Group Seminar Series.
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