Forum on the Future of Evidence-Based Policy

Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), Bielefeld University, 14-16 December 2023

Evidence-based policy is perceived by scientists, policy makers and policy advisory organizations as an important tool to react to multiple societal crises and challenges by increasing the uptake of evidence in the processes of policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. Societal crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the destruction of ecosystems, the introduction of non-native species to ecosystems, the depletion of aquatic species through industrialized fishing and climate change are some of the policy problems which call for evidence-based policy instruments and holistic policy approaches.

The Forum on the Future of Evidence-Based Policy to be held at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) at Bielefeld University 14-16 December 2023 will discuss challenges to evidence-based policy making in the fields of public health, biosecurity management and environmental policy, define policy goals concerning the development of knowledge production, knowledge demand and knowledge use in politics and formulate strategies and action proposals to enable policy makers to address societal challenges by using the available evidence, by guiding scientists how to appropriately address policy makers’ needs when communicating scientific research and guide the wider public concerning the potentials of using evidence when monitoring public policy making.

The Forum will bring together a range of stakeholders in evidence-based policy making, including scientists, policy makers, science communicators and knowledge brokers at different levels (from local to global). Collaboratively, we will develop a blue sheet and White Paper on the future of evidence-based policy through a series of roundtable discussions led by an experienced facilitator. Further, there will be a number of presentations on key challenges and potential solutions for evidence-based policy making, panel discussions on several related themes, and a masterclass on ethical policy making.


The forum will be structured around three major themes, one for each day:


Biases, Incentives and Power in Evidence-Based Policy

This theme will primarily focus on biases, incentives and power in evidence-based policy and their implications for the acquisition and consideration of evidence. Some specific issues related to evidence-based policy will be: one-sided acceptance of evidence, a lack of consideration of marginalised groups, possible misinterpretation of scientific methods, unequal power resources in the process of evidence production and supply as well as strategic modes of evidence consideration for political purposes.


Knowledge Brokering and Science Communication

There remains a well-recognised gap between scientists and policy makers in the process of Evidence-Based Policy. Often, the role of filling this gap and facilitating communication between scientists and policy makers is assumed by knowledge brokers, science journalists, and other individuals and groups who sit at the ‘boundaries’ of the science-policy interface. In this theme we will explore the role of those groups and individuals, their interactions, and the epistemic challenges they face. We will consider the future of knowledge brokering and science communication in the face of increasing political and societal uncertainty and distrust.


Ethics and Social Justice in Evidence-Based Policy

What is the role of ethics in EBP? This theme will focus on (i) the value-dependence of policy, that is, how policy-decisions have ethical and social-justice implications and are as such always decisions prioritizing certain ethical values over others – whether done consciously or not. Further, we will discuss (ii) the value-dependence of evidence itself, that is, how the very decision of what evidence gets used is not value neutral. Finally, we will discuss ways forward: (iii) the feasibility of explicit and transparent value commitments in EBPM.


Inspired by contributions from political scientist Paul Cairney (University of Stirling), former Chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, philosopher Stephen D. John (Cambridge University) and others, the forum fosters debates and exchanges among experts and policy makers about the future of evidence-based policy making.


Event information and practicalities: