The philosophy and history of evidence-based policy-making


29 September 2017, Aalborg University Copenhagen

“We have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas” (President Obama, White House 2010).

This is a worrying time for those who believe public policies should be based on the best evidence available. Some claim Western democracies have entered a postfactual era. On some issues, such as climate change and childhood vaccinations, many scientists worry their hard-won research findings have lost authority in society. There is a perceived decline of trust in scientific experts, which raises questions regarding the changing value of research with parallel changing ideologies. But just how should scientific evidence shape policy? Can philosophy and history of science be useful to understand the underlying enablers and constrains that dictate the role evidence plays in the machinery of governance?

This workshop brings together scholars from philosophy and history of science to help shed light on epistemological and historical cases of ‘evidence-based’ (or ‘informed’) policy and policymaking. The workshop will address fundamental questions, including how to appropriately apply lessons from history and philosophy of science; how science can integrate moral, cultural, and political concerns; and how we can know if a policy has produced the desired outcomes. Speakers will discuss the role of causality, evidence and objectivity, and their implications for policy. Papers are invited from early career researchers, which touches upon the central relationship of science, society and democracy.

The workshop will cover the following main thematic areas each based around the discussion and reflection on:

  1. How can we conceptualise a viable social contract between science and democracy?
  2. How can we understand the various types of evidence that are needed in policymaking
  3. How can we balance the provision of sound expertise with normative and political variables?
  4. How can we account for ideology and politics in value claims regarding the use of science?


Abstract submission deadline (300-500 words): 1 June 2017 Notification of acceptance: 1 July 2017
Workshop date: 29 September 2017


Dr David Budtz Pedersen (@humanomicsmap), Humanomics Research Centre, Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark. Email: