Plenary Lecture 1
Why do policymakers not listen to your evidence, and is it their fault?
Professor Paul Cairney
Professor of politics and public policy, University of Stirling
Paul Cairney is Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling. His research interests are in comparative public policy, including: comparisons of policy theories (Understanding Public Policy, 2020), methods (Handbook of Complexity and Public Policy, 2015, co-edited with Robert Geyer) and the use of evidence (The Politics of Evidence-Based Policy Making, 2016); policy outcomes in different countries (Global Tobacco Control, 2012 (with Donley Studlar and Hadii Mamudu), Scottish politics (The Scottish Political System Since Devolution, 2011 and Scottish Politics 2nd ed, 2013 with Neil McGarvey), comparisons of UK and devolved policymaking (‘Has Devolution Changed the British Policy Style?’, British Politics, 3, 3, 350-72), and comparisons of policy outcomes across the UK (‘Policy Convergence, Transfer and Learning in the UK under Devolution’, Regional and Federal Studies, 22, 3, 289-307 with Michael Keating and Eve Hepburn). He was funded (October 2013-15) by the Economic and Social Research Council to research the policymaking process in Scotland, focusing on areas such as preventative spending, and is currently funded by Horizon2020 (IMAJINE) to research policies designed to reduce territorial inequalities. He has written multiple articles on COVID-19 policy in the UK: https://paulcairney.wordpress.com/covid-19/
It is common for researchers to complain that policymakers do not pay attention to, or act on, the evidence they give them. In this lecture, Professor Cairney will draw on insights from policy studies to identify three general explanations for this problem: researchers and policymakers often have different ideas about what counts as good evidence; policymakers have to ignore almost all information to make choices; and, they make policy in a political environment of which they have limited knowledge and even less control. In that context, what can be done to address the ’evidence-policy gap’? It is common to simply blame politicians, or encourage researchers to communicate more effectively. However, Professor Cairney will use examples – from public health strategies – to show that this analysis is incomplete without identifying the systemic issues and trade-offs that would arise under any government.