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Making evidence credible for public health policy

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Debates about the role of evidence in policymaking have tended to focus primarily on how to increase the influence of academic research evidence on policy. This approach to the role of knowledge in policy sidesteps the question of what types of knowledge are used and valued in policymaking, and how different forms of knowledge may interact with policy. Drawing on 55 interviews with policymakers and academics, I explore how personal/institutional characteristics and processes are judged to confer credibility to knowledge for policy in informal and formal contexts. Using the generation of credibility as a lens to understand the effects of these values on scientific and policy processes allows us to understand the broader strengths and limitations of different forms of knowledge within the policy arena. I explore the implications of these strengths and limitations of credible knowledge in policy practices, and place our conclusions within a discussion of current approaches to understanding the role of knowledge in policymaking. I close with some reflections on the importance of transparent and reflexive policymaking and knowledge-generation practices, and the implications of this for public health.

This talk is part of the Bradford Hill seminars at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health series.

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