The aim of this paper is to reflect upon the quality of knowledge of a research paper published by the Rathenau Institute concerning evidence-based policy (Staman & Slob, 2012). In order to conduct the analysis three main knowledge claims are identified which are subsequently analyzed with the positivism, critical rationalism and social-constructivism view on science as described and defined by Benton and Craib (2011).
Diagnosed problems regarding evidence based policing
Evidence-based policy can be defined as policy that is based on scientific evidence (Staman & Slob, 2012). The interaction between policy makers and the scientific world seems however to face some disruptions. To identify these obstacles Staman and Slob (2012) start their analysis by reviewing the classical model of the interaction between science and politics, which states that scientists seek the neutral truth and policy makers seek for ways to turn ideas into effective policies. The underlying assumption in this way of thinking is that effective policies can be achieved with studied facts, thus based on scientific knowledge. Staman and Slob (2012) identified several problems that arise with this classical model from which three are summarized below and further referred to as knowledge claims (kc).
kc1. If policymakers desire to apply evidence-based policy there is a need for true facts. The knowledge provided by scientists is often considered as close to the truth due to the scientific method involved in reaching a conclusion. However, Staman and Slob (2012) point towards the viewpoints of Daniel Sarewitz, who believes that science can never reach a cohesive viewpoint. Jeroen Dijsselbloem confirms this by mentioning contradicting reports passing his desk often. This all means policy makers will always feel the hindrance of the lack of cohesion between scientists and it remains a question weather theoretical claims hold in practice for policies.
kc2. The expectations policy makers have towards scientists can often not be fulfilled. Policy makers often face time constraints and cannot afford to deal with doubt and uncertainty. Consequently, they are in need for a high level of certainty, which cannot always be guaranteed by scientists.
kc3. The third problem claimed by Staman and Slob (2012) is that evidence-based policy is not always possible due to the way scientists often seclude themselves in established their conclusions, it is often advisable for scientist to hear the opinions of all parties involved in order to understand how complex politics can be.
Testing knowledge claims through positivism principles.
The positivism perspective is an extension to the empiricism view on knowledge that states that knowledge comes from induction and observable experiences and that this knowledge is used to explain social phenomena (Benton & Craib, 2011). Nevertheless, the empiric view of knowledge on which positivism is based has long been subject to limitations. Immanuel Kant...