Telling policy stories: An ethnographic study of the use of evidence in policy-making in the UK

Stevens, Alex (2011) Telling policy stories: An ethnographic study of the use of evidence in policy-making in the UK. Journal of Social Policy, 40 (2). pp. 237-256. ISSN 0047-2794 . (Full text available)

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047279410000723

Abstract

Based on participant observation in a team of British policy making civil servants carried out in 2009, this article examines the use that is made of evidence in making policy. It shows that these civil servants displayed a high level of commitment to the use of evidence. However, their use of evidence was hampered by the huge volume of various kinds of evidence and by the unsuitability of much academic research in answering policy questions. Faced with this deluge of inconclusive information, they used evidence to create persuasive policy stories. These stories were useful both in making acceptable policies and in advancing careers. They often involved the excision of methodological uncertainty and the use of ‘killer charts’ to boost the persuasiveness of the narrative. In telling these stories, social inequality was ‘silently silenced’ in favour of promoting policies which were ‘totemically’ tough. The article concludes that this selective, narrative use of evidence is ideological in that it supports systematically asymmetrical relations of power.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Evidence; policy; ethnography; ideology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV5800 Drug use and miuse
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Taryn Duhig
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2012 12:53
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2014 14:02
Resource URI: http://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/29907 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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