Peter O’Neill (Alliance for Useful Evidence) and Prof Sally Shortall (QUB)
Making better use of evidence is essential if public services are to deliver more for less. Central to this challenge is the need for a clearer understanding about the standards of evidence that can be applied to research informing public policy. The Civil Service Reform Plan (HM Government, 2012) suggests that there may be a need for an improved infrastructure to trial and assess what works in major social policy areas. The aim is to ensure that the commissioners in central or local government have the evidence to support effective commissioning. There also may be a need to improve commissioning processes. A recent study of social care commissioning guides (Huxley et al 2010) found that they did not, in fact, pay much attention to research evidence (even when it was available); and relied instead on government documents or practice. In this presentation consideration is given to the nature of policy evidence and whether it is possible to reach a workable consensus on the best ways of identifying and labelling such evidence. The presentation also discusses how to increase the likelihood that this evidence actually informs decision making, as well as the crucial issue as to whether evidence ever really exists in isolation.