Social research, policy making and need of verifiable evidence

The question of what form social research should take in order to serve evidence-based policy-making is not in itself a very helpful starting point for a discussion on social research and policies because it simply takes too much for granted. It seems to assume that policy making should be inherently based on verifiable data and that the intrinsic role of social research is to provide such evidence. It seems to imply that the connection between verifiable and replicable evidence-based research and policy-making is straightforward and free from controversy. Perhaps a more constructive way of approaching the question is to start by probing the terms in which it is posed, since most people involved in the discussion on research and social policies in the UK would not tacitly agree with them.

The late 1990’s and beginning of the 2000s saw an increasing debate inside, and outside, the academic research community about the form and orientation of research and its role in informing social changes in the country. This debate has particularly focused on educational research and, therefore, it is from this point of view that I want to approach the topic. By and large the debate has been characterized by a sharp polarization between two sides. On one corner of the ring are those who advocate the so called ‘scientific educational research’ or randomized controlled trial research as be the ‘gold standard’ and argue that educational research should be based on verifiable, measurable and objective data in order to inform and determine educational practices and policies. On the other one, are those ones who question the validity of such approach and base their criticism on a plethora of different epistemological and methodological positions.

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Social research, policy making and need of verifiable evidence