By Katherine Smith (auth.)

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Extra resources for Beyond Evidence-Based Policy in Public Health: The Interplay of Ideas

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Instead, institutions – be they the formal rules of political arenas, channels of communication, language codes, or the logics of strategic situations – act as filters that selectively favour particular interpretations either of the goals toward which political actors strive or of the best means to achieve these ends. (Immergut 1998: p. 20) Such theories draw attention to the importance of temporality and organisational contexts in understanding policy processes and outcomes. g. Kay 2005). The major problem with these theories is that they do little to explain how and why policy change does occur (Béland 2005; Béland and Cox 2011; Hay 2002; Schmidt 2010) or, therefore, what role research might play in these transformative moments.

Macintyre et al. 2001; Young et al. 2002). This led Parsons to reflect that the UK government’s commitment to ‘evidence-based policymaking’ marked not so much a step forward as a step backwards: a return to the quest for a positivist yellow brick road leading to a promised policy dry ground – somewhere, over Charles Lindblom – where we can know ‘what works’ and from which government can exercise strategic guidance. (Parsons 2002: p. 45) Other commentators, such as Cohen (2000) and Hammersley (2005), warned that the restrictions New Labour was placing on governmentsponsored research were limiting the potential for academics to promote ideas that were out of line with government policies.

Such approaches provide a much broader view of policymaking than rational choice or ‘two-communities’ theories, better reflecting the complexity that Lindblom (1959) and Heclo (1974) highlight. What links the various actors involved in a ‘policy network’ is a sense of a shared culture or set of interests or beliefs. Given the number of actors involved in a ‘policy network’ and the dialectical relationship between these actors, as well as the potential role of the broader context within which actors and networks are situated, ‘policy networks’ are not a theoretical tool which claims to be able to predict policy outcomes (Marsh and Smith 2000).

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