Disagreement about Evidence-Based Policy

Routledge Handbook of The Philosophy of Disagreement edited by Maria Baghramian, J. Adam Carter and Richard Rowland

15 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2022

See all articles by Nick Cowen

Nick Cowen

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln

Nancy Cartwright

Durham University

Date Written: June 25, 2022

Abstract

Evidence based-policy (EBP) is a popular research paradigm in the applied social sciences and within government agencies. Informally, EBP represents an explicit commitment to applying scientific methods to public affairs, in contrast to ideologically-driven or merely intuitive “common-sense” approaches to public policy. More specifically, the EBP paradigm places great weight on the results of experimental research designs, especially randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and systematic literature reviews that place evidential weight on experimental results. One hope is that such research designs and approaches to analysing the scientific literature are sufficiently robust that they can settle what really ‘works’ in public policy. Can EBP succeed in displacing reliance on domain-specific expertise? On our account, this is seldom, if ever, the case. The key reason for this is that underlying this approach is generally an appeal to argument by induction, which always requires further assumptions to underwrite its validity, and if not induction, some other argument form that also requires assumptions that are very often not validated for the case at hand.

Keywords: evidence-based policy, induction, what works, internal validity, external validity

JEL Classification: C18, C90

Suggested Citation

Cowen, Nick and Cartwright, Nancy, Disagreement about Evidence-Based Policy (June 25, 2022). Routledge Handbook of The Philosophy of Disagreement edited by Maria Baghramian, J. Adam Carter and Richard Rowland, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4146318

Nick Cowen (Contact Author)

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln ( email )

Lincoln LN2
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://ulincoln.academia.edu/NickCowen

Nancy Cartwright

Durham University

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