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Complexity Settings to the Rescue: A New Lease of Life for Evidence-Based Policy?

Complexity Settings to the Rescue: A New Lease of Life for Evidence-Based Policy?

It would be naive and, potentially, ill-advised to have evaluation solely drive policy direction. Good, open, evidence-backed policy, however, does need to be informed by evaluation results and insights.  My CECAN Fellowship provided me with a rare opportunity to investigate how evaluation is applied in real life within a government department – in this case Defra – and how it can be used to plan for future policymaking. 

Models as ‘Interested Amateurs’

Models as ‘Interested Amateurs’

Pete Barbrook-Johnson, Research Fellow at the Policy Studies Institute at the University of Westminster & Knowledge Integrator Research Fellow at the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) at the University of Surrey. 

Taking The Temperature of Trust

Taking The Temperature of Trust

It is over two years since Ofwat set increasing trust in water as its key objective for its 2015 five year business plan.To establish what has happened since, I interviewed 19 senior and influential figures across all parts of the water sector. I am seeking wider perspectives via a survey (click HERE to participate) and hope this article will stimulate you to take part.

One Researcher’s Anecdote is Another Researcher’s Data

One Researcher’s Anecdote is Another Researcher’s Data

A couple of days ago, a DEFRA policy official told me that the uncertainty over EU exit was creating a fertile environment for evaluation, as champions try to ensure their favoured policies have a place in the forthcoming landscape, post Brexit. This struck me as interesting, and I made a note of it.

That Way Lies Prosperity: Sustainability and the Nexus

That Way Lies Prosperity: Sustainability and the Nexus

Sustainable Development and its relative Sustainability, concepts which have a rich history of appeal and animosity, have nevertheless become the dominant conversation framing environment-development policy in recent decades.

Agriculture Fit For A Complex World

Agriculture Fit For A Complex World

To say that we live in a complex world is, in a very general sense, rather banal and uninteresting being neither particularly illuminating nor especially profound. But, scratch beneath the surface, and an acknowledgement of that complexity can be revelatory.

Why We Need Network Analysis to Understand the Future of Economics

Why We Need Network Analysis to Understand the Future of Economics

Network analysis is the method of the future. That is not only – certainly not primarily – because we are ever more connected in some superficial social-media driven internet sort of way. All of that may be fascinating (and certainly can be analysed using network analysis), but it is not fundamental to our existence as humans – we existed before Facebook, we will exist after it is gone

Why Carry Out Economic Evaluation?

Why Carry Out Economic Evaluation?

I have only recently joined the small economic research consultancy Simetrica. Before this I spent 16 years in the Government Economic Service, starting as an economic advisor in DTI in 2000 (now known as BEIS). I first worked on employment policy and one of my main tasks was to produce Impact Assessments for new employment regulation using the tools of Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA).

Access to Data is Crucial

Access to Data is Crucial

CECAN is exploring how evaluation of policy can better inform the impact those policies have and assess the extent to which these have been successful. In order to do this, access to data is crucial, yet can at times be problematic. CECAN’s Knowledge Integrator, Candice Howarth met Emma Uprichard and Robert MacKay from the Centre and based at the University of Warwick and asked them over a series of emails to explain what the implications of some of these challenges are.

Aligning Policy and Evidence for the Age of Complexity

Aligning Policy and Evidence for the Age of Complexity

As the world changes in complex and unpredictable ways, Government is changing too.  As it does so, the need grows for policy-making and the evidence that informs it to be alive and responsive to the increasing pervasiveness of complexity.  In public service systems the increase in complexity often means that  no single institution is ever ‘in charge’ or has direct control over how changes unfold. 

Complexity High on the Agenda at the EES 2016 Biannual Conference

Complexity High on the Agenda at the EES 2016 Biannual Conference

Maastricht was the location of this year’s European Evaluation Society (EES) conference over a sunny week in late September. At the end of first day, we were treated to a civic reception in the building in which the Maastricht treaty was signed in 1992, bringing up mixed emotions for some of us.

Likelihoods

Likelihoods

The scope of the CECAN project runs wide as well as deep; complexity in the energy, water, environment and food domain would most immediately be thought to arise from the physical systems at the nexus core. Yes, complexity in weather systems, biological populations spring quickly and easily to mind as do the ‘user level’ human interactions with these systems and other local and global physical systems.

Is Policy Evaluation Fit For Purpose?

Is Policy Evaluation Fit For Purpose?

By Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs of the Science Museum, member of the Royal Society’s Science Policy Advisory Group. To tackle climate change, ecosystem destruction and the many daunting issues facing humanity we need not only to draw on science and engineering but also develop policies that can change the behaviour of 7.5 billion people.

Reflections on Language and Complexity

Reflections on Language and Complexity

When I turned up at the CECAN Evaluation and Complexity workshop this week it was my first day back at work after a holiday in Crete, an experience that I thought might have put me in the right frame of mind.   Being the non-scientist in a roomful of scientists often seems like being in a foreign country where I only speak a few words of the language.

Should Academics be Expected to Change Policy? Six Reasons Why it is Unrealistic for Research to Drive Policy Change.

Should Academics be Expected to Change Policy? Six Reasons Why it is Unrealistic for Research to Drive Policy Change.

UK social scientists feel a growing pressure to achieve policy change. In reality, this process is more complex than it sounds. James Lloyd looks at six reasons that limit the impact research can have on policy change. None of this should suggest that academic researchers shouldn’t seek to influence policymaking. But more consideration is needed on how best academic evidence can leverage the real-world nature of policymaking.

The Science of Using Research

The Science of Using Research

Governments all over the world invest large sums of public money into producing knowledge that helps them understand their countries’ complex socioeconomic issues. This knowledge, in the form of research, can be used to formulate potential solutions through public policies and programmes.

Clearing the Fog

Clearing the Fog

Development actors facing pressure to provide more rigorous assessments of their impact on policy and practice need new methods to deliver them. There is now a broad consensus that the traditional counterfactual analysis leading to the assessment of the net effect of an intervention is incapable of capturing the complexity of factors at play in any particular policy change.

Global Challenges Require Cross-Cutting Solutions

Global Challenges Require Cross-Cutting Solutions

New research led by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research suggests that current UK policies on water, energy and food are too fragmented to effectively tackle global challenges. Issues such as climate change, resource constraints and the increasing population cut across several sectors and need similarly cross-sectoral policies. Future research must meet this challenge by focusing on the nexus between sectors, scales and timeframes.

Tools, Tools Everywhere and not a Hammer in Sight!

Tools, Tools Everywhere and not a Hammer in Sight!

Members of the Sociology department, alongside colleagues from across the University of Surrey, have been working on the ERIE project for the past six years. One of the main outputs of the project is the development of a suite of software tools designed to help anyone and everyone make decisions and think strategically.

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