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  • Author or Editor: Valérie Pattyn x
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Background:

While current public policy scholarship can take advantage of a decades-long accumulated knowledge base on the relationship between evidence and policy, it is hard to keep the overview across different literatures. Over time, the ever more differentiated branches of public policy research have developed their own perspectives, languages, and conceptualisations of ‘evidence’ and ‘policy’, as well as their connections.

Aims and objectives:

Existing reviews have stressed that studies often do not provide clear definitions of ‘policy’ or ‘evidence’, and have outlined the importance of investigating underlying conceptualisations in the literature. Against this backdrop, this article investigates how present-day public policy scholarship approaches the concepts of ‘evidence’, ‘policy’, and their connections.

Methods:

We conducted a qualitative systematic review following the PRISMA method. Using a keyword search, we identified relevant articles (n=85) in eleven Q1 and Q2 policy journals included in Web of Science in the period 2015 to 2019.

Findings:

The synthesis confirms that ‘evidence’ and ‘policy’ are often not clearly defined, yet different trends regarding understandings can be identified. There are two approaches taken on the evidence and policy connection: a ‘use of evidence’ or a ‘use for policy’ perspective.

Discussion and conclusions:

Research on evidence and policy would benefit from more explicit conceptual discussions. This review may provide a heuristic for explicating conceptual choices when working with the notions of ‘evidence’, ‘policy’, and their connections. It also suggests several avenues that are worth exploring in future research.

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In the last two decades of the twentieth century, think tanks proliferated dramatically. Once a predominantly American and British phenomenon, the think tank model is now globally dispersed. Think tanks appear in great diversity, with varying size, legal forms, policy ambit, organizational structures and political significance, leading to many hybrid forms, rather than one dominant model. In this chapter, the authors take a closer look at the organization of think tanks in Belgium, address how they organize themselves against the background of the Belgian (neo-corporatist) political system and clarify the nature of their policy work. Via a charting of the most well-known think tanks, the authors analyze which types of think tanks are active in the Belgian political arena, the resources that they have at their disposal and the policy output they generate. Are they serving as a bridge between knowledge and power, or are they themselves rather a manifestation of the knowledge-power nexus?

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This chapter analyses policy analytical methods in Belgian policy work. Government wide synoptic policy analytical tools have now and again attracted champions in Belgium’s governments. This was the case with PPBS in the late 1960s in the federal government, and with efficiency analysis and strategic planning in the 1990s in the Flemish government. Yet, they never survived the bureau-political games they engendered. At a lower level of ambition and within the dynamics of separate policy sectors, a plethora of formal analytical methods have been deployed, in both the ex ante and ex post stages of the policy cycle. These include quantitative methods such as cost-benefit-analysis and forecasting as well as qualitative methods such as Delphi, foresight, and impact analyses of different kinds. This chapter discusses the variation in formal analytical methods against the background of three trends: sectoral policy professionalisation, evidence-based policy, and the Europeanisation of policy analytical work.

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Belgium, like Italy, is often considered a text book example of partitocracy. The dominance of political parties involves many functions and dysfunctions in a polity that is highly fragmented along linguistic and ideological lines. Political parties not only assert their institutional position as gate keepers to what demands and interests are aggregated for legislative and executive politics. They also play a dominant role in the policy-making process, by framing problems, ideologically promoting solutions, and negotiating compromises in the cumbersome formation and continuation of coalition government. Like other actors who play a role in the policy-making process, political party organisations too are faced with the increasing complexity of problems, and with the demand to back up their proposals with expert-based argumentation. In Belgium, each party organisation comprises a study service. Although their origin and history has been documented in general party organisation studies, this chapter is the first contribution to understanding the way these intra-party study units are organized and how they generate policy relevant advice. Findings concern all major political parties, across the language border.

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