Evidence-based policy: fact versus fiction

fact-vs-fictionFriday 21st March, 7:30 pm, Unity House, Fennel Street Loughborough
Discussion to be introduced by Paul Chaplin.
Evidence has played a key role, being followed or ignored — or both — in
each of the following cases:

– The Labour Party’s decision to ignore the recommendations of the Jenkins
Commission on electoral reform (i.e. introducing AV+) in 1998, despite they
themselves having commissioned it.

– Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent and now-discredited research in the late
90s purporting to link the MMR vaccine to autism. The scare caused by this
led to reduced vaccination rates in children, and the number of measles and
mumps cases has risen markedly since.

– The dismissal by the Government in 2009 of Professor David Nutt as chair
of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. He called for a more
evidence-based approach to the formulation of UK drugs policy, which would
for example rank alcohol as more harmful than cannabis, and was accused of
campaigning — which he now does as a result.

– The AV referendum in 2011. Both fiction from the No side of the campaign,
and the failure to clearly present persuasive evidence by the Yes side, led
to a woeful lack of informed debate and discussion.

– The broad success of the focus on rehabilitation over punishment in
Norwegian prisons, reflected by far lower recidivism rates than other
developed countries. Despite this available evidence supporting
rehabilitation, the average UK prison sentence length rose by over 20%
between 2002 and 2012.

I also hope to offer at least a brief look at the other side of the debate,
considering some criticisms of this approach to policy-making.

Original image courtesy of Kittisak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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