At the request of the Prime Minister, this report has been designed to explore in greater detail the issues that were brought to light in an earlier discussion paper, Towards better use of evidence in policy formation (2011). This paper extends that discussion and makes some specific suggestions as to how to improve the use of robust evidence in policy formation and evaluation.
The report is partially informed by a survey that my Office undertook in 2012 to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices of public servants toward the use of research-informed evidence in policy formation. A number of government agencies were selected to take part in the study, which comprised staff surveys, key informant interviews and document analysis.
Findings of the study pointed to a high degree of variability across the New Zealand public service with respect to the understanding and application of robust evidence for policy formation and the evaluation of policy implementation. While there were examples of promising attitudes and practices, my report suggests approaches that would help to bring the New Zealand policy environment in line with current international practice.
Recommendations are discussed in full in Part 2 of this report (page 19). They include:
- Develop a standard set of protocols across government regarding obtaining expert scientific advice;
- Extend the use of Departmental Science Advisors (DSAs) more broadly across government;
- Use the community of DSAs and the Chief Science Advisor to assist central agencies with longer-term planning, risk assessment and evaluation;
- Improve and make more explicit the use of government funds for research to assist policy formation;
- Provide greater transparency regarding the use of research-informed data (or its absence) with respect to complex and controversial areas of decision-making where the public is directly or indirectly consulted.