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Why don’t policymakers listen to my evidence and how should I respond?


Since 2016, my most common academic presentation to interdisciplinary scientist/researcher audiences is a variant of the question, ‘why don’t policymakers listen to your evidence?’ I provide three main answers to provoke seminar debate:

1. Many policymakers have many different ideas about what counts as good evidence

2. Policymakers have to ignore almost all evidence and almost every decision taken in their name

3. Policymakers do not control the policy process (in the way that a policy cycle suggests)

However, the practical meaning of these statements varies by audience. To an audience of not-social scientists, I suggest that we do not simply blame politics and politicians: let’s act effectively in a policy process that exists, rather than hoping that a new system will appear. With an audience more conversant with policy studies, we can discuss their practical lessons and the advice we might give to advocates of research evidence seeking policy-theory-informed impact.


Paul’s research interests lie in comparative public policy, and his work has spanned comparisons of policy theories (Understanding Public Policy, 2012), methods associated with key theories (Handbook of Complexity and Public Policy, 2015), international policy processes (Global Tobacco Control, 2012), and comparisons of UK and devolved policymaking. He has applied these insights to explain the use of evidence in policy and policymaking in one book (The Politics of Evidence-Based Policy Making, 2016), several articles, and many blog posts on


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