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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Evidence on Trial Public Lecture - Evidence-based Policy: Where's the rigor when you need it?

9th November 2015, 18:15 to 19:15, Kingsley Barrett Room, Calman Learning Centre, Lower Mountjoy, Durham University, Professor Nancy Cartwright, FBA (Durham University)


Evidence-based policy (EBP) is widely mandated now at the local, national and international levels. Surely this is a good thing: EPB is supposed to put some rigor into our policy deliberations. But so far all the rigor is on the knowledge production side, ensuring that the evidence claims on offer from the sciences are trustworthy. But what about knowledge use? What are policy deliberators to make of the evidence in their attempts to estimate and balance the effectiveness, the evidence, the chances of success, the costs, the benefits, the winners and losers, and the social, moral, political and cultural acceptability of proposed policies? When it comes to how to use the evidence in policy deliberation of this kind, rigor gives out almost entirely. This talk will try to pinpoint where some of the problems lie and look at what we might do to make policy deliberation more reliable, and reliable across the range of people who might be affected by the policy.

Nancy Cartwright is a methodologist and philosopher of the natural and social sciences, with special focus on causation, evidence, and modelling. Her recent work has been on how to make the most of evidence in evidence-based policy, with special focus on child protection and education. She is a Professor of Philosophy at Durham University and the University of California San Diego, having worked previously at Stanford University and the London School of Economics. Professor Cartwright is a former MacArthur fellow, a fellow of the British Academy, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Leopoldina (the German Society for Natural Science).

This lecture is free and open to all.


Map – The Calman Learning Centre is denoted at building number: 43.

Contact for more information about this event.