Policy Press

Publishing with a Purpose

What works?

Evidence-based policy and practice in public services


19 Jul 2000

Page count

396 pages




216 x 148 mm


Policy Press
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What works?

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What counts is what works - but how can we actually tell what works? And what can we do with such knowledge to influence policy and practice?

As all parts of the public sector embrace 'evidence' as a means of providing more effective and efficient public services, this book provides a timely and novel contribution to such debates.

The authors consider the role of evidence in specific public policy areas (healthcare, education, criminal justice, social care, welfare, housing, transport and urban renewal), using experts in each field to explore the creation, dissemination and use of evidence within each. They consider in particular:

  • How is research evidence of service effectiveness created?
  • How does such evidence shape policy and influence service delivery?
  • What efforts are being made to encourage greater utilisation of evidence in policy and practice?

The rich cross-sectoral accounts of the many and diverse activities in each sector provide an insight into the ebb and flow of evidence as guidance to policy and practice. 'What works?' develops perceptive analyses of outstanding problems, and raises challenging agendas for service development and future research.

The authors conclude with the all-important question of the implementation of evidence-based practice and lead the way to the reinvigoration of innovative thinking.

With its relevance to both cutting-edge practice and research, this book is important reading for a wide range of managers and professionals in different sectors, as well as students and academics studying public policy, public administration, and social policy and management.

"... excellent ... an intelligent and enjoyable state-of-the-art review of the issues involved in doing research to inform policy and practice." Dr Gordon Marshall, Chief Executive, Economic and Social Research Council

"... extremely valuable ... It serves as useful material for teachers ofevaluation or policy analysis, and for those educating future evidence-based practitioners. Managers within statutory and non-statutory agencies will also find much of value." New Zealand Journal of Social Policy

"This bookprovides a significant contribution to the debate over how evidence can help provide more effective and efficient public services." Social Policy Focus Jan 01.

"Health and social care managers, practitioners, educators and academics will find the book timely and inexpensive." Journal of Health Organization & Management

"... a very good book." Higher Education Review

"... interesting and informative ... should be widely read and prescribed in social policy classes." Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

"Evidence-based policy is a key component of the government's modernisation agenda, and this book helpfully dissects what it means, in different policy contexts and in different research communities. There is a compelling call for a more eclectic and pluralist, while rigorous, approach to what constitutes 'evidence' which should be heard by policy makers and researchers alike." Sue Richards

"If anything is going to turn policy makers into 'smart users' of research evidence it is this book. It uncovers the difficult questions behind the commitment to 'evidence-based policy'. What counts as evidence? What do you do when you can't afford to act on it? Who do you trust when evidence conflicts? And how do you move into the future when data is gathered to support the past?" Graham Leicester

"...a must read for those interested in the evidence-based approach to social policy. Policy makers, practitioners, researchers and members of the media interested in the role of high-quality research on subsequent decisions should consider this book." Anthony Petrosino, American Academy of Arts & Sciences and Harvard University, USA

"Good, highly recommended reading." Lee Gregory, University of Birmingham.

Foreword - Ron Amann; Introduction: introducing evidence-based policy and practice in public services - Huw Davies, Sandra Nutley and Peter Smith; Evidence and the policy process - Sandra Nutley and Jeff Webb; Part One: Analysis by service area:; Health care: evidence to the fore - Huw Davies and Sandra Nutley; Education: realising the potential - Carol Fitz-Gibbon; Criminal justice: using evidence to reduce crime - Sandra Nutley and Huw Davies; Social care: rhetoric and reality - Geraldine Macdonald; Welfare policy: tendering for evidence - Robert Walker; Housing: linking theory and practice - Joe Doherty; Transport: beyond predict and provide - Francis Terry; Urban policy: addressing wicked problems - Tony Harrison; Part Two: Thematic analysis:; A strategic approach to research and development - Huw Davies, Gloria Laycock, Sandra Nutley, Judy Sebba and Trevor Sheldon; Debates on the role of experimentation - Huw Davies, Sandra Nutley and Nick Tilley; Non-experimental quantitative methods - John Hutton and Peter Smith; Contributions from qualitative research - Philip Davies; Making a reality of evidence-based practice - Sandra Nutley and Huw Davies; Concluding remarks: learning from the past, prospects for the future - Huw Davies, Sandra Nutley and Peter Smith