By Ian Sanderson.The increasing emphasis on the need for evidence-based policy indicates the continuing influence of the ‘modernist’ faith in progress informed by reason. Although the rationalist assumptions of evidence-based policy making have been subject to severe challenge from constructivist and post-modernist perspectives, it is argued that the attempt to ground policy making in more reliable knowledge of ‘what works’ retains its relevance and importance. The expanded use of piloting of new policies and programmes by the current UK Government is considered to provide limited scope for evaluation to derive reliable evidence of whether policies work. There is a need for greater clarity about the role of evaluation in situations where piloting essentially constitutes ‘prototyping’. More emphasis should be placed on developing a sound evidence base for policy through long-term impact evaluations of policies and programmes. It is argued from a realist position that such evaluation should be theory-based and focused on explaining and understanding how policies achieve their effects using ‘multi-method’ approaches.
Public Administration 2002 Volume: 80. ISSN: 0033-3298. http://www.blackwellspublishers.co.uk/asp/journal.asp