When Evidence is not Taken for Granted: The Use and Perception of “Evidence” in the Czech Republic Ministries

Open access

Abstract

The role of evidence in policy-making is one of the most researched topics in public policy and public administration. However, surprisingly little research has been done on how public officials actually use evidence in everyday life practice. Moreover, these studies have been limited to countries that have been influenced by the evidence-based policy movement (EBP). Little is known about how the evidence is conceptualized and utilized in other countries which have not been so strongly influenced by EBP movement. This paper addresses this gap. Using a large-N survey on the Czech ministerial officials and in-depth interviews with them, we explore what is understood under the term of “evidence”, what kind of evidence is used and preferred by public officials and why. In doing so, we use four theoretical perspectives on the use of evidence. We show that despite the long-established tradition of using research in policy-making the importance of research evidence in the Czech Republic is far from being taken for granted. On the contrary, the immediate and personal experience is often preferred over the research findings. The exception to that are census-like statistical data and comparative data published by international organizations. We find some support for the two-communities metaphor, though these communities are not defined by their socio-demographic characteristics, but rather by their internal discourse and understanding of evidence.

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