Evidence-Based Policy Research - Critical Review of Some International Programmes on Relationships Between Social Science Research and Policy-Making

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The report has two main objectives. Firstly, to critically present current programmes implemented by international organizations, which seek to enhance the interconnections between social scientific research and policy. Secondly, to highlight a series of critical issues with regard to the nature of the linkages between the two domains. This double venture and the debate it provokes ultimately aim to enable the MOST Secretariat to carve out its own niche in relation to other major organizations working in this field. The first part proceeds to offer an empirical overview of the different ways that international multilateral organizations (United Nations University, the European Union, the World Bank, and OECD) build bridges between social scientific research and policy. Via this examination the paper reaches the conclusion that what one largely deduces from these ventures is that they are based on a rather positivist social scientific vision. Hence they, more often than not, lead to (with varying degrees) a rather conformist understanding of the link between the domains of research and policy (i.e. the emphasis is on evidence based research - with a strong quantitative dimension - providing solutions to problems). In the second part, the MOST Policy Paper via an exploration of the complex links between politics and social scientific knowledge convincingly argues that the aspiration to universal applicability (and by extension to an ultimately benevolent problem solving character) on the part of evidence based policy making is problematic. Consequently, he suggests that alternative social scientific perspectives are legitimate and that the accumulation of scientific evidence that, nevertheless, does not address conditions of unequal distribution and/or disempowerment will not lead to significant social improvements.


Carlos R.S. Milani

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