Sample Essay on Head 2013 Evidence Speaking Truth to Power

Head 2013 Evidence Speaking Truth to Power

Bibliographic citation

Head, BW 2013, ‘Evidence‐Based Policymaking–Speaking Truth to Power?’, Australian Journal of Public Administration72(4), pp.397-403.

Main arguments of the paper

  • The author of this journal article, Brian W. Head, conducted a study to examine the use of evidence-based policymaking in both governmental and non-governmental organizations. He argues that, in general, policy decision-makers in both political as well as administrative sectors of the government claim to be in favor of evidence-based approach (page 397)
  • Rather than objective science, in practice, evidence-based policymaking takes into account stakeholder interests, professional judgments, as well as political context in order to make reasoned argumentation (page 397)
  • The main question that the author is trying to answer in this article is to establish whether policymakers really pay close attention to pieces of evidence when making their decisions (page 397)
  • The study established that policy decision-makers in government clearly pay attention to evidence when making their decision but often choose to consider only sources of expertise which are beyond the analytical reports produced by program evaluators, social scientists as well as technical advisors. The author further argues that in most cases policymakers use pieces of evidence that confirm their preferred position rather than alternative evidences that might explore new options or positions, largely because they want to continue with business as usual (page 397)
  • In government, policymakers are largely mindful of the stakeholder values and sentiments of the community. They are pragmatic and do not wait for the availability of excellence information or evidence to make decisions but are rather concerned with the political feasibility of the project (page 397)
  • In general, the author established that evidence-based policy ideas are seldom used but rather lie on shelves without easily translating into substantial policy influences. For instance, in nongovernmental organizations such as business and academia, it is seldom for researchers to directly influence policy decisions even if their works has developed better policies or established better relationships with policymakers (page 397)
  • In this article, the author used literature review methodology in which various articles with relevant themes were analyzed and reviewed for evidence-based policymaking in the recent years. 20 papers were discussed and they were grouped into four themes namely (1) foundational issues – values, politics and governance, (2) knowledge and skills for policy-making, (3) policy capacity and policy contestability, and (4) policy evaluation and accountability (page 399-401)
  • The key finding of the study is that in practice, public policy making does not follow the established and well recognized principles of evidence-based approach for rational decision making under risk analysis. Nonetheless, the quality of policymaking in government partly depends on strong analytical skills and good information as well as smart leadership able to navigate the turbulent political environment (page 400)

10 key strengths of the paper

  • The first strength of this article is that it is well organized and presents a clear structure thus making it easy to identify main points of argument. For example, the four main arguments /points are illustrated and discussed independently in the body of the article. The introduction also clearly states the main purpose of the article and its arguments
  • The author clearly stated the main research question which is to establish whether policymakers really pay close attention to pieces of evidence when making their decisions (page 397)
  • The article is well researched thus provides only information that is justifiable and accurate. For instance, the author drawn his conclusion and argument from more than 25 authentic different pieces of literatures (page 399)
  • The author used very simple and straight forward language in writing this article to help enhance proper understanding of his main arguments. Every point is articulately presented in elaborative writing style and simple vocabulary to correctly bring out the main argument
  • The author gave an elaborate introduction that presented the necessary background information about evidence-based policymaking and the views of other authors and researchers. Literature review is well integrated in the introductory part of the article
  • Another significant strength of this paper is that the author conducted extensive literature review about evidence-based policymaking, which has been sued to complement the introduction and main body section of the article. In addition, various pieces of literature used are well cited in the article
  • The author has dedicated sections to extensively discuss the main four relevant themes discussed in the researched articles. These four themes are extensively discussed to explicitly answer the research question
  • Another significant strength of this article is that the author used only recent publications which make his arguments most relevant to the current situation. For example, most of the 25 sources used in the reference were published no earlier than 2002, most of them being published between 2008 and 2013
  • The article provided adequate knowledge and skills for policy-making which is very crucial in understanding the evidence-based policymaking approach as used in both government and nongovernment organizations
  • The author provided clear definition of evidence-based and also elaborated the differences with evidence-informed, which is not clearly understood by many people
  • Lastly, in this article, the author has tackled each point independently thus enhancing clarity in understanding his main arguments

10 key weaknesses of the paper

  • Even though the author clearly stated the research question, the methodology is not stated in the article. For example, the article does not provide any methodology section to illustrate how the research was conducted
  • Another weakness of this article is that the author did not provide clear research design and instruments used. Instead, the author simply provided his arguments picked from the main selected publications on theme of evidence-based policymaking
  • The paper is missing essential sections such as research findings and conclusion which could have helped clarify and summarized the main findings of the study. Without conclusion, it remains guesswork to determine the final position of the author in this research
  • Another weakness of this article is that it is not presented in a clear structure divided into introduction, main body, and conclusion, which is a depiction of poor organization and presentation of research information to the reader
  • The researcher did not clearly state the research objectives thus it is not easy to comprehend the aim and direction of the research
  • The author depended on the analysis of secondary data which might not be appropriate because such data were collected to answer different research questions and objectives which might not be similar to the current study. In addition, the secondary data might be inappropriate because they were collected from different research populations that share no similarities
  • The use of secondary data in this research may have created lack of control over the quality of data and information being used. This is because the data might have been distorted during their first use in the initial research as well as summarized and organized in ways not compatible with this research
  • Another weakness is that the research is not timely and may not offer substantial value especially to organizations operating in fast changing markets because some references were published more than 10 years ago and may provide outdated information not relevant to the current situation
  • The research was not conducted using primary methods thus its quality maybe questioned because the information collected was not controlled by the researcher himself but others whose interest might have been different thus high potential of reduction in quality of the research
  • Lastly, the author has not identified specific research needs which is very essential in understanding his logics of argument, design an choice of methodology

10 major personal insights about government policy

  • The author’s research established that when using evidence-based policymaking, political context is of significant importance because politics has great power to influence decision making
  • This reach has also established that when using evidence-based policymaking approach, it is very essential to consider community sentiments and public opinion because the decision being made involves solving their problems and issues
  • When using evidence-based policymaking approach, it is essential for policy bureaucrats to join together all diverse strands of interests and knowledge then decide how they would present their preferred position because of the diverse public and stakeholder opinions involved
  • In public policymaking, policy bureaucrats should not wait for the availability of excellence information in order to present their position but rather decide on how courageous they would be in challenging the government’s position because decision has to be taken even when the available pieces of evidence are uncertain or fragmentary
  • In policymaking using evidence-based approach, both conceptual and political forms of influence are very fundamental in establishing and understanding the relationship that exist between policy and evidence
  • In real world, although they arestronglypursued, evidence-informed policy ideas do not easily translate into real policy influence. Instead of being implemented, they often lie in shelves because of the strong influence of political influence and community sentiments
  • In this paper, the author highlights that researchers and academic sectors rarely succeed in directly influencing the decisions made by policymakers
  • The author’s research found that it is rare for public policymaking to follow the well-recognized and long established principles that require rationality in decision making. It is essential for policymaker not to push for principles of rationality when making decisions
  • The researcher has established that the way public view risk is not consistent and in most cases irrational. There exist a gulf between public attitudes and risk perception which policymakers must consider when formulating their preferred positions
  • In public policymaking, it is essential to evaluate the policies and programs. More emphasis should be placed on evaluating the program rather than evaluating quality of the policy

10 main linkages of the themes and concepts to the development of government policy

  • This paper has observed the role of reasoned argumentation in evidence-based policymaking in both government and nongovernment organizations. The paper gives significance to reasoned argumentation rather than dependence on objective science
  • Evidence-based policymaking uses pragmatic approach rather than objective science in making decisions. In addition, it should mind about the stakeholder values and community sentiment when making such policies (page 398)
  • This article highlights evidence-based policy as an important approach in policymaking but may not be appropriate when political context and community sentiment are not considered. Evidence-based policymaking should look for evidence not only from objective science but also political and social context
  • Although scientific knowledge is widely valued when it comes to evidence-based policymaking, it contends with professional, political and business understandings about the exact nature of the research problems as well as the practicable and feasible solutions
  • In evidence-based approach, empirical analysis alone is not sufficient for policy decision making rather it should emerge from politics, debate as well as rational judgment of the situation
  • This paper highlights that while deriving evidence-based policy through policy debate, there is outstanding interplay between desired actions,norms, and facts which might make the evidence contestable and diverse in nature
  • In addition, this article highlights that a clear distinction exist when evidence-based policymaking is directly employed in making decisions. This incidence makes negotiated approaches very complex in finding solution to the problem
  • Furthermore, the paper highlights a direct link between public opinion and policy making in the real world. In the real world, public opinion through debates play out significantly in broader arenas than objective research offered through bureau, academy or agency
  • The paper also highlights the link between emotion and the implementation of real world policies. The author argues that in real world, it is apparently easy to adopt criminal justice policies if in the presentation of evidence the roles of emotion, faith, symbol, religion and beliefs were recognized in the proposal
  • Lastly, the paper highlights that in the real world, evidence-based policy making is dependent partly on strong analytical skills, accessibilityof good information, as well as availability of smart leadership. For instance, the leadership should have outstanding potential to navigate complex issues and challenges presented to the decision makers



Head, BW 2013, ‘Evidence‐Based Policymaking–Speaking Truth to Power?’, Australian Journal of Public Administration72(4), pp