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Insights from ‘policy learning’ on how to enhance the use of evidence by policymakers


  • Antje Witting

    () (Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Konstanz University)


Abstract This article uses the policy-oriented learning literature to provide practical insights on how to enhance the use of evidence by policymakers. After a short introduction to the field, this article presents four steps to understanding and responding to policy learning. First, all people interpret the world through the lens of their beliefs, and learn by combining heuristics and analytical processing. Second, people learn in different ways according to their roles. A novice would not be advised to learn about a specialist isue in the same way as a scientist. Instead, a modified communication strategy would be used to ensure understanding and uptake of evidence. Third, learning is a political process: we interact with our social environment and some actors—including entrepreneurs and brokers—influence the process more than others. Therefore, to encourage learning from scientific evidence we need to move beyond communication towards entrepreneurship and brokerage roles. In other words, policy-oriented learning is as much about interaction and leadership as information.

Suggested Citation

  • Antje Witting, 2017. "Insights from ‘policy learning’ on how to enhance the use of evidence by policymakers," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 3(1), pages 1-9, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-017-0052-x
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-017-0052-x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keith Dowding, 2001. "There Must Be End to Confusion: Policy Networks, Intellectual Fatigue, and the Need for Political Science Methods Courses in British Universities," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 49(1), pages 89-105, March.
    2. Martin Lundin & PerOla Öberg, 2014. "Expert knowledge use and deliberation in local policy making," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 47(1), pages 25-49, March.
    3. Christopher Weible & Tanya Heikkila & Peter deLeon & Paul Sabatier, 2012. "Understanding and influencing the policy process," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 45(1), pages 1-21, March.
    4. Leach, William D. & Sabatier, Paul A., 2005. "To Trust an Adversary: Integrating Rational and Psychological Models of Collaborative Policymaking," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 99(4), pages 491-503, November.
    5. May, Peter J., 1992. "Policy Learning and Failure," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 331-354, October.
    6. Deserai Anderson Crow, 2010. "Policy Entrepreneurs, Issue Experts, and Water Rights Policy Change in Colorado," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 27(3), pages 299-315, May.
    7. Matthew Zafonte & Paul Sabatier, 1998. "Shared Beliefs and Imposed Interdependencies as Determinants of Ally Networks in Overlapping Subsystems," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 10(4), pages 473-505, October.
    8. Bryan D. Jones & Frank R. Baumgartner & Christian Breunig & Christopher Wlezien & Stuart Soroka & Martial Foucault & Abel François & Christoffer Green‐Pedersen & Chris Koski & Peter John & Peter B. Mo, 2009. "A General Empirical Law of Public Budgets: A Comparative Analysis," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(4), pages 855-873, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jessica H. Phoenix & Lucy G. Atkinson & Hannah Baker, 2019. "Creating and communicating social research for policymakers in government," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 5(1), pages 1-11, December.

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