Australian Institute of Criminology

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Why it is so hard for research to inform the policy process and government decision making?

74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith, ACT, Scott Prasser
09 May 2007

Scott Prasser
University of Sunshine Coast

Introduction

Collecting more information, doing more research, conducting more studies, producing more reports on particular policy problems and issues was once deemed the way to do policy, to improve policy choices, to inform elected officials, to inject rationality into the policy development process and to get better policy outcomes. Although this is the way government talks, the dialogue of rational scientific decision making, of making choices based on evidence and research, this is not necessarily how governments act... Given the growing complexity of policy problems, meshing expert and research based advice with political exigencies remains one of the ongoing challenges of researchers, policy advisers and information generators.

This presentation explores some of the tensions between 'hot' and 'cold' policy advice, the meaning of 'good politics' and 'good policy,' and how political, organisational and institutional pressures adversely affect the utilisation of research and data produced to inform the policy process and elected officials. Suggestions for overcoming some of the barriers are highlighted.

The presenter will draw upon his own experience from working inside government in heading various policy research units and more recent work in doing consultancies for various government departments. In addition, preliminary findings of a research project involving over twenty interviews with former and present ministers, premiers and prime ministers from Victoria, Queensland and the Commonwealth, will also be explored.

About the speaker

Scott Prasser is Senior Lecturer in Management in the Faculty of Business at the University of Sunshine Coast. Prior to joining USC in 2003 Scott worked in Queensland Department of State Development heading the Industries Strategies Branch and later the Science and Technology Unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet that was responsible for a whole of government review of Queensland Government's spending and priority setting on research and the development. Scott has previously worked as an academic in politics at several universities, was senior private secretary for the Immigration Minister in the Fraser Coalition Government and headed the Social Policy Unit in the Queensland Department of Welfare Services. Scott has published extensively in academic journals and books as well as in the national media.