Forthcoming foundational document by Stauffer, Snoeij, Seifert, and Ammann (2019)
How to understand and approach policy-making as an outside actor? How to improve policy-making such that decisions rely more on evidence and reason while taking behavioral and institutional realities into account? We are writing a research agenda that provides research and implementation directions on these questions. The research agenda is divided in three sub-sections.
Evidence-based policy-making (EBPM) is an ideal difficult to achieve. Widely cited barriers are many. They include actors' cognitive limitations, lack of time, different definitions of evidence and limited attention spans; the role of framing strategies, focusing events, and policy networks; as well as incompatibility between the supply of and demand for evidence. Most of them directly boil down to political behavior of different types of actors - not solely policymakers. We disassemble EBPM down to the actor level and explore the heterogeneity of the use and misuse of evidence. Through this literature review, we found that actors' types, and other characteristics such as their goals, play an important role. We recommend the proponents of evidence-based policy-making to adopt a pragmatic approach, rely on immersed training strategies, revise their assumption that researchers must also be knowledge brokers, and foster the inclusion of epistemic communities in policy-making.
The topical focus of policy-making depends on agenda-setting processes; meaning the process of problems and solutions entering the policy-making process where they are defined, debated, and then prioritized through the combination of various forces such as power, political interests, funding, shared discourse, external events, and media coverage.
In contrast to agenda-setting, 'priority-setting' has been employed as a method to prioritize problems and solutions more systematically in the sector of health policy. This approach comes close to the prioritization models that are advocated within the Effective Altruism community. They include the Scale-Solvability-Neglect (SSN) and the expected value (EV) frameworks. Generally, they serve as broad heuristics to guide one's decision-making in the allocation of limited resources.
This paper tries to push the envelope by analyzing how these two frameworks would apply to policy-making in general, across contexts, sectors and institutions.