STEaPP Intern Alessandro Allegra takes stock two-thirds of the way into his internship working on research project Public policy processes and knowledge systems.
I have been working on a project with Dr Chris Tyler and Dr Adam Cooper to investigate public policy processes and knowledge systems. The first thing I had to do for the project was figure out what exactly we mean by a ‘policy process’. This was not just because of my ignorance, but because it turns out that, although there are no shortage of definitions and diagrams out there describing the policy process, it turns out that they often have very little resemblance with happens in the corridors of Whitehall.
By surveying the existing literature, analysing the paper trail behind some specific policy initiatives, and talking to people who have been involved in government policy in various roles, I have started building a more nuanced picture. Rather than a neat and orderly cycle of well-distinguished stages, the process seems to be more composed of phases that blend into each other, often with iterations and feedback loops, where the boundaries can only be drawn retrospectively through post-hoc rationalisation.
This more nuanced understanding of what happens at the coalface of policymaking is so far the greatest lesson that I have learned during my time at STEaPP, and has several implications for how we understand the role of scientific knowledge in it. The next step of the project will be bringing these insights together into a coherent model, and validate it though discussion with practitioners. This will then allow to ask questions about the use for evidence in policy from a different perspective, such as for example what pressures and constraints civil servants encounter in their daily policy work, what activities and cognitive processes they engage with, and how vulnerable the whole process is to individual cognitive biases we are inevitably victim of.
STEaPP Research Internships 2018
To find out about details of our internship programme for 2018, visit the internship webpages.