Use of evidence in public policy: roundtable with Dr Sarah Morton

21 Jun 2017

Superu and the Victoria University School of Government (SoG) hosted a roundtable for senior officials and experts with Dr Sarah Morton (Co-Director for the Centre for Research on Families in Edinburgh, and a Director of What Works Scotland). Andrew Kibblewhite, as Head of the Policy Profession (HoPP), joined Dr Morton in providing introductory remarks. Professor Jonathan Boston, SoG, chaired the roundtable. The aim of the roundtable was to share knowledge and experience of how to achieve positive outcomes from the uptake and application of evidence gained from research and evaluation. The desired outcome is that public servants are better equipped to improve their agency’s uptake and application of evidence.

Key points on how to get better evidence for public policy:

  1. Co-design – leverage a broad range of relationships to build the knowledge base, involving those who are both satisfied and dissatisfied, ‘far from the norm’, and from points along the ‘outcome value chain’.
  2. Innovation – gain small permissions to try and learn what works, be thoughtful about transparency with the public, foster a learning mind-set, and adapt scaled-up processes to specific contexts.
  3. Data analytics – be careful not to misuse modelling or data, avoid confusing correlation with causation, and use other forms of evidence to make sense of it. 
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