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News | Tuesday, 12 December 2023

Evidence-based policymaking: international perspectives and best-practice models

Evidence-based policymaking: international perspectives and best-practice models

Image: Shutterstock | Graphicfarm

In order to tackle challenges facing society, such as climate change, the energy transition, digitalisation, or pandemics, clearly structured, transparent, and fact-based political decision-making processes are needed. Analysis based on science can provide the basis for better-informed decisions. The Leopoldina Forum “Roundtables ‘International Perspectives on Evidence-based Policymaking’ and ‘How to strengthen Evidence-based Policymaking? Strategic Positioning within Government’ – Event Documentation”, offers an international perspective on such evidence-based policy advice as well as best-practice examples for suitable structures that aid effective cooperation between policymakers and science.

The paper summarises the findings of two roundtable events that took place as part of the Leopoldina Initiative for Evidence-based Policymaking, launched in 2018.

“Taking into account scientific evidence and the findings of empirical effectiveness analyses can significantly improve policy decisions and outcomes,” says economist and Vice-President of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina Professor Regina T. Riphahn, Ph.D. “To this end, the Initiative for Evidence-based Policymaking examines instruments, procedures, and the structures of science transfer within the German political administration system and government across all policy fields.”

Riphahn coordinates the Initiative together with the economist Professor Dr Monika Schnitzer. “The impulse statements from the two roundtable events presented various approaches that help policymakers and administrative organisations take action based on scientific evidence,” says Schnitzer. “It was possible to give insight into international best-practice models from Australia, New Zealand, Finland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the OECD.”

The first roundtable event, titled “International Perspectives on Evidence-based Policymaking”, took place in 2021, while the second, “How to strengthen Evidence-based Policymaking? Strategic Positioning within Government”, took place in 2022. Canada, for example, was presented as one of the world’s few countries to appoint a Chief Science Advisor, whose role is to provide independent science-based policy advice. The UK government has an Evaluation Task Force that accompanies the evaluation of political measures. Australia has a central office for Regulatory Impact Analysis, which offers advance support regarding the development and implementation of important policy decisions.

Although individual countries take very different approaches, the authors identify common challenges regarding the long-term institutionalisation of evidence-based policymaking. On the one hand, resources and capacities are needed to build evidence-based decision-making systems. On the other hand, it must be ensured that political decision-makers acknowledge the relevance of science-based research and set verifiable targets for political action.

The Initiative for Evidence-based Policymaking, coordinated by Regina T. Riphahn und Monika Schnitzer, has spent the last few years working in various ways to strengthen cooperation between science and politics. The aim is to overcome institutional barriers and pave the way for more evidence in policy-related decision-making processes.

In the Leopoldina Forum series, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina documents diverse perspectives on issues that are highly relevant to science and society.