Paul Cairney

Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling


I combine insights from policymaking research and work with people to apply these insights to real world problems.

In doing so, I am struck by the difference between our perspectives. For example, when I work with colleagues in fields such as public health or climate change, they wonder why policymakers seem to ignore their evidence. In contrast, I assume that policymakers must find efficient ways to ignore almost all information, to make timely choices.

The politics of ‘evidence-based policymaking’

I apply two insights to interpret the use of evidence in policymaking: policymakers must ignore almost all information, and have low knowledge/ control of policy processes.

Uncertainty and ambiguity

We reduce uncertainty by providing more evidence. We reduce ambiguity by exercising power to assert one way to understand a policy problem.

Models of evidence-informed policymaking

There are several models of internally consistent evidence-informed governance, including (1) centralisation and evidential hierarchies, versus (2) localisation and storytelling.

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