Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Evidence-based policy and the problem of non-knowledge

Following on from my post a few weeks back on the curious British-ness of the evidence-based policy debate, it occurred to me that recent work in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and the sociology of knowledge might be able to give useful insights on the challenges for those advocating evidence-based policy. The value-ladenness and political nature of policy decisions is usually acknowledged by many of those calling for the more systematic use of evidence in policy, often stating that they accept that ultimate policy decisions are rarely made on the basis of evidence alone. The disagreement of different experts and forms of evidence is also a commonly acknowledged problem with the process. What is often left out of the discussion are the problems associated with ambiguity, ignorance and even non-knowledge, as well as the obstinate impossibility of accurately predicting the future.