Evidence based policy
Produced in partnership with Lisa Larsen of PPL
Evidence based policy

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Lisa Larsen of PPL provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Evidence based policy
  • The rise of evidence-based policy
  • The benefits of evidence-based policy
  • What type of evidence?
  • Getting evidence into play
  • Conclusion

Evidence-based policy can be defined as a practice and approach that helps people make well informed decisions about policies, programmes and projects by ensuring that policy development and its implementation is informed by the best available evidence (What Works? Evidence-based Policy and Practice in Public Services, Nutley and Smith 2000).

A Whitehall policymaker describes what this means in practice: ‘Evidence-based policy, to me, is two sides. One is the evidence of the need to do something and the other side is the evidence of this being the appropriate solution.

The rise of evidence-based policy

While there is a long tradition of evidence-based and evidence-informed policy within the UK, the practice gained greater traction after 1997. The new Labour government had a stated goal of putting an end to ideological and opinion-based policy that relied heavily on untested views or a selective use of evidence (The Role of Statistics in Evidence-based Policy Making).

As set out in the 1999 White Paper, Modernising Government: 'We must produce policies that really deal with problems, that are forward-looking and shaped by evidence rather than a response to short-term pressures; that tackle causes not symptoms'

The focus was initially on the use of evidence to shape policies, but the agenda soon expanded to a concern with the delivery of the policy in question. Today, there is an equal