1,350 research outputs found

    In Whitehall, academic research is far more likely to be used if it fits with the story already being told

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    After a six-month spell as a Whitehall policy adviser, Professor Alex Stevens finds there is plenty of evidence on which to base policy – but this does not make for ‘evidence-based’ policy

    Survival of the ideas that fit: An evolutionary analogy for the use of evidence in policy

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    This paper explores bias in the use of evidence in policy. It argues that existing models of the evidence–policy relationship neglect the tendency for attention to be paid only to that evidence helpful to the interests of powerful social groups. An evolutionary analogy is used to explain how this bias arises, without the need for irrationality or conspiracy on the part of policy makers. Examples are given in the fields of drug, asylum and other policies, and the possible responses by researchers to the biased use of research evidence are discussed

    Bland or bias? Election watching across the Atlantic: US, UK and Scotland (guest blog)

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    American Polis intern Alex Steven Forbess reports on the US midterm elections as seen from London and reflects on how national media cover other countries polls

    Critical realism and the ‘ontological politics of drug policy’

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    This article explores the question of what we can consider to be real in drug policy. It examines two increasingly common aspects of drug policy analysis; radical constructionist critique and successionist data science. It shows how researchers using these assumptions have produced interesting findings, but also demonstrates their theoretical incoherence, based on their shared ‘flat ontology’. The radical constructionist claim that reality is produced within research methods – as seen in some qualitative studies - is shown to be unsustainably self-defeating. It is analytically ‘paralyzing’. This leads to two inconsistencies in radical constructionist studies; empirical ambivalence and ersatz epistemic egalitarianism. The Humean successionist approach of econometric data science is also shown to be unsustainable, and unable to provide explanations of identified patterns in data. Four consequent, limiting characteristics of this type of drug policy research are discussed: causal inference at a distance, monofinality, limited causal imagination, and overly confident causal claims. The article goes on to describe the critical realist approach towards ‘depth ontology’ and ‘generative causation’. It provides examples of how this approach is deployed in critical realist reviews and discourse analysis of drug policy. It concludes by arguing that critical realism enables more deeply explanatory, methodologically eclectic and democratically inclusive analysis of drug policy development and effects

    Prisons and Drugs: A global review of incarceration, drug use and drug services. Report 12

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    Prisons play an important role in drug policy. They are used to punish people who break drug laws and they also hold a large number of people who have experience of drug use and drug problems. They therefore have an important part to play in attempts to reduce the harm caused by drugs. Imprisonment itself can be seen as one type of harm, as it causes problems for prisoners and their families and creates a large financial burden for taxpayers. Theseharms and costs are difficult to calculate, but there is little evidence that large scale imprisonment of drug offenders has had the desired results in deterring drug use or reducing drug problems (Bewley- Taylor, Trace, & Stevens, 2005). In this paper, we examine the international prevalence of drug users, drug use and related problems in prisons and we report on the problems that are related to the issue of drugs in prison. We go on to examine the international guidelines and effective responses that have been developed in this area in the last decade. The paper is a review of the literature, based on a search of bibliographic databases, including Medline, PubMed, ISI as well as EMBASE and contacts with researchers and practitioners in the field up to January 2007

    Governments cannot just ‘follow the science’ on COVID-19

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    Politicians may present themselves as merely implementing scientific advice, but Alex Stevens argues that, when science meets politics, it can be a case of survival of the ideas that fit

    ‘Being human’ and the ‘moral sidestep’ in drug policy: explaining government inaction on opioid-related deaths in the UK

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    Background: With drug-related deaths at record levels in the UK, the government faces two potential sources of pressure to implement more effective policies. One source is the individuals and families who are most likely to suffer from such deaths; i.e. working class people living in de-industrialised areas. The other source is experts who argue for different policy on the basis of research evidences. Aim: This article aims to explain why, in the face of these two potential sources of pressure, the UK government has not implemented effective measures to reduce deaths. Method: The article uses critical realist discourse analysis of official documents and ministerial speeches on recent British drug policy (2016-2018). It explore this discourse through the theoretical lens of Archer’s (2000) ideas on ‘being human’ and by drawing on Sayer’s (2005) work on the ‘moral significance of class’. Results: Members of economically ‘residual’ groups (including working class people who use heroin) are excluded from articulating their interests in ‘late welfare capitalism’ in a project of depersonalising ‘class contempt’ through which politicians cast the people most likely to die as passive, ‘vulnerable’ ‘abjects’. Conservative politicians dismiss ‘evidence-based’ ideas on the reduction of drug-related death through a ‘moral sidestep’. They defend policy on the basis of its relevance to conservative moral principles, not effectiveness. This is consistent with the broader moral and political pursuit of partial state shrinkage which Conservative politicians and the social groups they represent have pursued since the 1970s

    The politics of being an ‘expert’: A critical realist auto-ethnography of drug policy advisory panels in the UK

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    The work of ‘experts’ with policy advisory panels plays an important part in the making of illicit drug and other policies. This article explores what is involved in this work. It uses critical realist auto-ethnography of the author’s experience over five years of working with the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee. It analyses: how some people become recognised as a ‘suitable’ expert through relational networks of esteem, while others are excluded; how bureaucratic processes and scientific modes of discourse select some types of information rather than others for the creation of acceptable evidence; and how agenda-setting and self-censorship can reinforce the exclusion of other knowledges, further narrowing the range of people and ideas that shape evidence for policy

    Data extracted for realist review of alternative measures for dealing with simple possession of drugs

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    The file associated with this ‘read me’ document is an Excel spreadsheet containing data extracted for a realist review of alternatives to criminalisation for dealing with simple possession of illicit drugs. It contains information from nine countries in three categories (contexts, mechanisms and outcomes) from documents found through a systematic literature search that was carried out for the review

    Medical cannabis in the UK

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    Patients should not be criminalised for seeking benefits: Do patients have the right to medicate themselves, or should they be punished for doing so? Should their doctors work with them to decide on the best treatment, or does the government know best? These questions are at the heart of the current debate on the use of cannabis as medicine. In the UK, “cannabis based products for medical use in humans” were rescheduled on 1 November 2018. They were placed in schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, alongside several opioid analgesics. In theory, this means they can now be prescribed. In practice, the NHS has warned that “very few people in England are likely to get a prescription for medical cannabis,” because of the tight restrictions that have been put in place...
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