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The turmoil of evidence: Research utilisation in UK drug classification

By Mark Peter Monaghan


This thesis investigates the thorny relationship between evidence utilisation and policy making in a heavily politicised policy area. Expectations for the conflux of\ud researcha nd policy formulation have been consolidated in the last decade under the banner of 'evidence-based policy'. In recent times, the debateo ver the nature and\ud utility of evidence-based policy has become much more sophisticated. No longer can the connection between evidence utilisation and policy formulation be conceived in\ud terms of evidence shaping policy outcomes or, conversely, policy being evidence free, where evidence has no impact. Such conceptualisations persist, however, in heavily politicised policy areas, where there is intense media scrutiny of decision making, a lack of consensus on its direction, prolonged conflict between competing interest and stakeholder groups and a permeating sense of crisis. These tend to relate to more 'macro' policy areas, not usually the remit of evidence-based policy-making\ud and evaluative research.\ud \ud Using recent and ongoing developments in UK drug classification policy as a case-study, an explanatory\ud framework of the complex role and nature of evidence in\ud heavily politicised policy areas is developed. Central to this, is the use of a methodological approach that can account for the role of conflict in the policy process. A modified version of the Advocacy Coalition Framework is employed to this end. This, in turn, allows for a range of data-collection methods to be used, including observation and documentary analysis of Parliamentary Select Committee\ud hearings alongside qualitative interviews with a wide-range of key policy actors involved in the decision-making process. From this a nuanced account of the evidence and policy relationship in such contexts is ascertained,which departs from the more established models explaining the evidence and policy nexus.\ud \ud Traditionally, such explanations have been conceived as models of research utilisation. In this research it is suggested that these do not translate effectively as\ud models of evidence-based policy-making. This is because\ud they are beset with some, or all, of the following problems: a) they focus more on 'research' rather than the\ud broader concept of 'evidence'; b) they operate with a static view of the policy process where there is a direct connection between research and policy; c) they\ud restrict the role of evidence to one of policy outcomes, rather than viewing the role of evidence in the process of decision-making; d) they assume that research is the defining influence on the decision-making processe; e) they operate at a high level of abstraction, offering little account of how research is selected for use in decision making. Consequently, a newer addition to the literature is developed, which, it is claimed, avoids these shortcomings

Publisher: School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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