Thursday, March 30, 2017

Our mission.

Policy Insight aims to develop a new methodology for policy formulation, deliberation, evaluation and choice that is useful for improving outcomes from evidence-based policies. Central to this methodology is an understanding of the causal mechanisms at work.

Who are we?

Policy Insight is a UK research network based on voluntary cooperation among researchers and practitioners with backgrounds in methodology, policy deliberation, programme implementation and policy evaluation dedicated to the improvement of policy outcomes through better deliberation and better use of research findings.

What we do.

Efforts to date in evidence-based policy have focused on knowledge production: on improving and evaluating the quality of scientific knowledge available to serve as evidence in an argument for a specific policy decision.


Policy Insight is concerned with knowledge use and knowledge users. We aim to improve policy benefits by helping knowledge users make better decisions. Much is known about research use in policy and practice in general but actual use in particular settings remains problematic. Often precise measurements and attempts at generalisation from scientific research rely on the abstraction, and thus distortion, of key causal elements from the complicated systems in which policy and practice take place. Policy Insight is working to overcome some of the key weaknesses in the concept of evidence so that evidence can better address the broad range of issues that users must consider. This includes our understanding of how and why change happens, how to improve deliberation and practical judgment, and developing the right language, practical tools and more useful guidelines so that our research knowledge can yield maximum benefits at each stage of policy deliberation.

Policy Insight thus undertakes studies to understand the user’s point of view and outline the questions that users need reliable knowledge to help answer. Our studies engage with issues of different values at stake, with understanding the sources of outcome variation, with improving reliability in predicting the range of policy outcomes – both intended and unintended, and with promoting ongoing quality assurance for the evidence used to support these conclusions. Others want users to make decisions based, if possible, on randomised controlled trials. We want them to make better decisions in a complicated world. Our investigations thus focus more on understanding causal mechanisms, on the important place of values in deliberation, on the generally under-appreciated role of local factors in affecting what are the right decisions and on the need for sound deliberation where good rules are not available.

  • Causal mechanisms. Rigorous policy analysis needs an understanding of the causal mechanisms that operate in the setting where a policy might be implemented. This allows a policy to be evaluated in terms of its effects over time - which can uncover previously unanticipated effects, effects playing out on different timescales and counter-intuitive consequences. The most effective policy levers for social systems can lie in unexpected places; the use of modelling therefore supports not only the analysis of existing policy options but the development of new policies. Policy Insight therefore looks at what scientific modelling can do to provide information about how causal mechanisms are supposed to operate in situ and then helps policy deliberators learn how to map out the predicted causal sequence to see if - or under what circumstances - the desired consequences will be produced in their particular setting.
  • Values. Values matter to scientifically informed policy at the stage of knowledge production and at that of knowledge use. On the knowledge production side, values -- cognitive and contextual (moral, political, social) -- enter in setting research agenda, they influence scientific results through their effects on decisions concerning concept formation, measurement, data gathering, methods employed and scientific modelling and finally through the interpretation of results. On the user's front, the realities of decision making require weighing alternative moral positions, political interests and financial constraints with scientific and local knowledge. Policy Insight studies how to manage values at both stages of knowledge production and use to generate policies that are more effective and more just.
  • Local factors. Whether a policy will produce the expected outcomes when implemented in a particular local setting depends heavily on the conditions in that setting. Is it the kind of situation in which the policy can work? If it can work there, what is required to ensure that it will? Are these necessary conditions in place there? If not can they practicably be put in place? Who will be affected by the policy and what are their concerns, values and experiences? How can learning from local factors and observed variations be fed back into the knowledge production loop to inform emerging best practice? Studies by Policy Insight investigate what kinds of local knowledge are required to answer these questions and how policy deliberators might acquire this under-appreciated and neglected source of knowledge.
  • Deliberation. Evidence-based policy making requires identifying what facts are relevant to the decision needed and weighing those relevant facts together to arrive at a policy decision. Relevance depends on identifying both the causal structure that is relevant to the problem and its possible solution and the interests, concerns and values of those who will be affected. Those processes cannot typically be algorithmic or rules based. Deliberation means reflecting widely on such questions of relevance and balance, and judgment is the open-ended skill of doing that well. But these notions need much greater clarification and that is the purpose of Policy Insight researches in this area.

Researchers

Anna Alexandrova

Anna Alexandrova.

Anna Alexandrova is a University Lecturer in Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University Department of History and Philosophy of Science. She works on policy-relevant measures of well-being and the evidentiary status of models, among other related topics. More information is available on her webpage https://sites.google.com/site/aaalexandrova/.

Nancy Cartwright FBA.

Nancy Cartwright FBA.

Methodologist specializing in causal inference and in evidence for policy deliberation. Professor of Philosophy, Durham University and University of California at San Diego.

Jeremy Clarke.

Jeremy Clarke CBE FBACP.

Psychotherapist, and National adviser to Government on psychological therapies in the NHS. Chair, New Savoy Partnership. Clinical Lead, National Audit of Psychological Therapies for Depression and Anxiety. Co-Chair, Work Programme special interest group for mental health He works in an NHS primary psychological therapies service in Newham, East London, and supervises other NHS psychotherapists across South London, as well as leading a 3rd sector service that specializes in psychosexual therapies (Albany Trust).

Jeremy Hardie CBE.

Jeremy Hardie CBE.

Research Associate at LSE’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science and author with Nancy Cartwright of Evidence-Based Policy: A Practical Guide to Doing It Better. He is now working on Rules, Discretion and the Domain of Expertise. He has wide experience of business and public life (e.g. as Chair of WH Smith, Loch Fyne Restaurants and the Centre for Economic Policy Research) and was Fellow and Tutor in Economics at Keble College Oxford from 1968 to 1975.

David Lane FORS.

David Lane FORS.

David Lane specialises in policy analysis using system dynamics and systems thinking. He works interactively with groups of senior managers to help think through the long-term strategy of their organisation. He is Professor of Business Informatics at Henley Business School. He was a faculty member at LSE and City University Business School and also worked at Shell International and Shell UK.

Eleonora Montuschi.

Eleonora Montuschi.

Eleonora is a philosopher of social science working on issues of objectivity and evidence in social settings. She is an associate professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Venice and a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics.

Eileen Munro.

Eileen Munro.

Philosopher and social worker whose key research interest is in improving reasoning skills in child welfare services and how the wider system supports or hinders this.

Julian Reiss

Julian Reiss.

Philosopher of science whose main interests lie in the intersection of philosophy, politics and economics and in normative issues concerning biomedical and healthcare research. Professor of Philosophy at Durham University.

Alice Sampson.

Alice Sampson.

Alice Sampson is a criminologist and community researcher whose primary interest is about how best to alleviate our most pressing social problems. Alice is Director of the Centre for Social Justice and Change, School of Law and Social Sciences, University of East London.

Hakan Seckinelgin.

Hakan Seckinelgin.

Hakan Seckinelgin is a Reader in International Social Policy, Department of Social Policy, LSE and co-chair of Social and Political Research Advisory Group for International AIDS Society. He is expert in international HIV-AIDs policies and the use of local knowledge as evidence for policy prediction.

Elliott Stern.

Elliott Stern.

Elliot Stern designs, advises on and occasionally undertakes evaluations with policy customers. He is interested both in understanding the value-added of complex policy measures and in stakeholder engagement. Elliot edits the journal Evaluation: the international journal of theory, research and practice, is Emeritus Professor at the University of Lancaster and Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol. His recent work includes reviewing methods for evaluating policy impacts for DFID and evaluation design for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.