What counts as evidence for policy?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the refrain of ‘following the science’ became commonplace. But what is meant by evidence can vary according to who is asked, the context, and other factors. We conducted research to analyse the perceptions of Welsh policy actors towards evidence. These perceptions matter because they will impact why evidence is used or not by different policy actors and ultimately on how policy is formulated.

To undertake this research, we used Q methodology – which is a mixed method developed to study attitudes and perceptions of individuals. It involves participants ranking a set of statements on what evidence is and its role in policy making. These statements were collected from the existing literature, newspapers, and expert interviews. When meeting virtually (because of the Covid-19 pandemic), each participant was asked to rank the statements in an agree-to-disagree pyramid shape (+4 to -4); take a photograph of the final sorted statements; and complete a short questionnaire about their views on evidence.

We conducted interviews with 34 participants from across the Welsh policy community, from Ministers to civil servants, Senedd staff, as well as civil society organisations, and academics, to discuss their perceptions of evidence for policy.