The new evidence-based policy: public participation between ‘hard evidence’ and democracy in practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access permissions





Organisational units


Background: Debates about evidence-based policy (EBP) were revived in the UK in the 2010s in the context of civil service reform and changing practices of policy-making, including institutionalisation of public participation in science policy-making.
Aims and objectives: This paper aims to explore this revival of interest in EBP in the context of the Government-funded public participation programme Sciencewise, which supports and promotes public dialogues in science policy-making. It is based on an in-depth ethnographic study of the programme during 2013, considering the impacts on Sciencewise practices and working understandings of engaging in the EBP debate. There is a particular focus on the advantages and disadvantages of categorising public participation as a source of evidencebased policy as opposed to presenting participation as a democratic act which is separate from discussions of EBP.
Key conclusions: At different times Sciencewise actors moved between these stances in order to gain credibility and attention for their work, and to situate the outcomes of public participation processes in a broader policy context. In some instances the presentation of outputs from public participation processes as legitimate evidence for policy gave them greater influence and enriched broader discussions about the meaning and practice of open policy. However, it also frequently led to their dismissal on methodological grounds, inhibiting serious engagement with their outputs and challenging internal frameworks for evaluation and learning.


Original languageEnglish
JournalEvidence and Policy
Early online date25 Nov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Nov 2019

View graph of relations

ID: 164448041