Evidence Matters

Credit TheOtherRichard

On 1st November 2016 one hundred people from across the country went to parliament. 15 of them spoke on why evidence matters to them, and heard responses from parliamentarians.

It was an extraordinary start to conversations between members of the public, ministers, MPs, and officials about the importance of evidence in policymaking. Let’s seize this opportunity.

We need to make sure that all parliamentarians know how much evidence matters – to their constituents, and to their colleagues. We’ve asked the MPs and peers who were at the event how they will help us get their colleagues on board. Now we need your help.

If you already spoke to your MP, please let us know and – importantly – thank them for getting involved. Send them the stories from the day. And if they agree that evidence in policy matters, ask: will they talk to their colleagues about it?

If you haven’t written to your MP, you can find their contact details here: www.theyworkforyou.com. Identify yourself as a constituent, give your postal address, and tell them: “On 1st November 2016 one hundred people from all walks of life went to parliament to tell parliamentarians, ministers and officials that evidence matters to them, and they expect it to matter to government too. The stories told at the event can be found here. This matters to me, and I hope it matters to you. I’d like to know where you stand on this issue and, if you agree with me that government should use evidence when making policy, I’d like to ask what you will do and how you can help communicate the support for this idea to your colleagues”. Let us know how you get on.

Speakers from the evidence matters event in parliament standing in front of the Sense about Science banner.
The speakers at the Evidence Matters event in Parliament

Read Suzi Gage’s write up in the Guardian and look at our storify of the event.

“We live in a year in which across the world, the term ‘post-truth politics’ has become an accepted term of use and abuse in temporary political discourse. So if ever there was a time for a restoration, a renaissance, of evidence-based policy, and a celebration of the evidence collectors, and the discipline and integrity of the scientific process in all our endeavours, but particularly policy making – then this is it.” — George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk and Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board

“Can I say, first of all, thank you very much for coming to parliament to reassure politicians that there is an appetite for evidence and evidence-based policy making, because, as has just been said, in a scenario of post-truth politics for mainstream politicians, that is a scary prospect. So reinforcing the message that evidence counts is essential.” — Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat, MP for Carshalton and Wallington and Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Alison Thewliss, MP talking to speaker Paul Murphy
Alison Thewliss, MP talking to speaker Paul Murphy

“I’m pleased that the government is wanting to change their approach to this because there is an evidence vacuum, and more policy-based evidence than evidence-based policy. I would like to suggest that as an introduction for all MPs and all councillors that evidence and understanding evidence should be part of that.” — Debbie Abrahams, Labour, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

“When I started doing investigations with science classes we always considered certain questions, the first one was “what is it that you’re trying to find out?” or the aim. Now, this is often the most difficult question and since coming to parliament it’s one that I often wonder whether it’s forgotten in some of the inquiries, or investigations or legislation that takes place.” — Carol Monaghan, SNP, MP for Glasgow North West, and shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader for Public Services and Education

Teacher Ahmed with his students at evidence matters event in parliament
Teacher Ahmed, who spoke on the day, with his students.

“I want to thank Sense about Science for organising this and bringing 15 such interesting and varied topics to parliament to tell them why we should be listening to their evidence base. And I spotted on the banner there a roundel that says “I love evidence”. I really want you to produce those badges and get them distributed across parliament so we can become your champions for evidence based policy making.” — Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock and Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee

“I believe that statistics and other evidence tell us how the world is working – or not – and therefore enable us, as engineers, as politicians, as scientists, as lobbyists, as campaigners, they enable us to make the world work better. And you’ve given a number of examples of those that are instrumental, that should be instrumental, in driving forward public policy on this.” — Chi Onwurah, Labour, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy

“I chair the science and technology committee in the lords. Because we see our job as completely unpolitical, but very much try to establish the evidence base and then to ensure that government do take that into account when determining policy. Now I say ‘take it into account’ because one has to accept that there will be on occasions where the evidence is overridden legitimately. And I think one has to accept that. Scientists and engineers and others have an absolute responsibility to provide the evidence on which policy can ultimately be determined.” — The Earl of Selborne, Conservative, Chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee

“Evidence really does matter when making policy. At it’s best there are examples such as the publication of the Stern Report which was a key moment in changing climate policy. But the referendum campaign saw debate hit a new low as ‘facts and experts’ were denigrated, leading in my view to a disastrous outcome.” — Daniel Zeichner, Labour, MP for Cambridge and Shadow Minister for Transport

“Policy implementation without justifying evidence is Government by decree, not by democracy – and anyone who thinks that evidence collection is expensive and inconvenient should simply recognise the huge cost and disruption that comes when it is neglected.” — Lord Kinnock, Labour peer

“Evidence based policy is fundamental to good government.”  — Lord O’Donnell

“Government needs to use clear consistent data, base policy on evidence and commit to thorough evaluation as policy is implemented.” — Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative, MP for Totnes and Chair of the Health Select Committee