We all know that public policies these days ‘should’ be based on evidence; but I’m not clear about when and how the full might of rational thought is best brought into the public policy arena. We seem sometimes to have mislaid the ‘politics’ part of ‘policy’, in our reliance on ‘the evidence’…. Scientists and researchers in areas where policy is being developed frequently tell us all that their evidence points this way, or that way, and I have no doubt that in their minds this is so. I don’t however recall, ever, hearing one of these very well-informed and rational observers reflect on whether the way forward they propose is actually understood or acceptable to the public who will be paying for the implementation of the policy. It’s a cliche, but true, that politics is the art of the possible; the evidence base may be pristinely rational and logical. People, … (To read the full article, subscribe below)

Hilary Burrage is a writer and consultant.