An expert panel then discussed the question; “Is policy fit for a complex world?”
We were pleased to welcome Dr David Halpern (Behavioural Insights Team), Dame Margaret Hodge (MP), Dr Ulrike Hotopp (Simetrica) and Michael Kell (NAO), all wonderfully chaired by Dr Roger Highfield of The Science Museum.
The primary discussions were based around CECAN’s mission of improving policy making for a complex world. Jane Elliott highlighted the importance of drawing on the breadth and depth of insights, methods and tools that social scientists can bring to policy making and evaluation, suggesting these are still under-utilised by policymakers and operational practitioners.
Mark Walport noted the different emphases and priorities in different parts of the policy cycle; a lot more effort tends to go into ex-ante than ex-post assessment of what has actually been done in a policy, and how crucial social science is for policy evaluation.
The audience were given the opportunity to raise questions to the speakers, before a lively and engaging panel debate began, with a great variety of responses from the participants, and some especially helpful insights into the government decision making processes.
David Halpern suggested the Whitehall system is more fragmented than academia, with a lack of a strong centre, pervasive problems of poor communications across departments and no real incentives to improve.
Ulrike Hotopp reminded the audience how important it is to be clear at the outset what a policy’s objectives are and that a lot of evaluation goes on but is not designated as such. Identifiying these activities she feels is something CECAN can really help with.
Michael Kell expressed how important CECAN is because there is so much work to be done to create an evaluation system that is fit for purpose. He suggested the NAO in particular wants from academia a comprehensive and accessible overview of what the evidence base overall tells us, in good time, with access to the right experts.
Margaret Hodge reminded us that whilst Brexit gives an opportunity for fresh thinking, it will mean less money for vital research, and noted that politicians needed to accept the blame for burying research that shows ‘bad news’ about policies.
Delegates were delighted with the speakers and panel members, who we would wholeheartedly like to thank for giving up their time to engage with our event.
If you were unable to attend in person please view it online