Deconstructing the debate over evidence-based policy

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The renewed interest in evidence-based policy has been accompanied by a debate on the nature and desirability of the use of evidence in policy-making. At its core, this debate pits rationalist supporters of increased use of information for reasoned decision-making against constructivist critics who argue that policy-making is not based on evidence and that an appeal to evidence is the first step toward a dangerous elimination of human judgment in the policy process. Although this dialog is framed as a debate, it can be shown that opposing voices rarely engage with each other’s arguments. To improve the relevance of the discourse, scholars of public policy must recognize the positive and normative assumptions behind the most common arguments related to evidence-based policy and acknowledge that the ‘sides of the debate’ are, within limits, mostly intellectually compatible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-226
Number of pages16
JournalCritical Policy Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • constructivism
  • Evidence-based policy
  • policy formulation and implementation
  • rationalism
  • research utilization

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