Friday, November 04, 2011

An alliance for useful evidence

You can't speak a much plainer truth than Jeffrey Simpson does today on the Harper government's criminal justice policies that are not rationally connected to the facts and are commandeering disproportionate and unwarranted sums of dollars: "There is no crime epidemic."
Without any of these measures, almost all crime rates in Canada are falling, and not just homicide. The way to keep them falling is not only to insist on excellent police work but also to target policies at troubled areas and to work on the causes of crime, causes often rooted in social dislocation, mental illness and economic conditions.

Canada doesn’t have an epidemic of crime, no matter how much the media play up criminal acts and how often the government talks up the peril. Canada has a challenge of crime, the response to which from this government is almost completely counterproductive.
Well said. In the UK this week, there was an interesting launch that speaks to this very situation of a government making decisions that are disconnected from the evidence staring them in the face:
A drive to ensure that scarce public money is spent only on policies that produce measurable results has been launched by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, a think-tank headed by the former No 10 policy adviser Geoff Mulgan.

It is establishing the UK Alliance for Useful Evidence, in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Council, to act as a catalyst to both generate and promote use of evidence on interventions that work and those that don’t, as policymakers struggle to squeeze maximum value from a shrinking public purse.
“If you are in charge of money in the public sector [and] if you aren’t aware of the evidence base in your field you aren’t doing your job.“
You could add to that quote something to the effect that willfully ignoring the evidence also means that you're not doing your job. Particularly in this era where supposed leaders preach austerity.

That Alliance sounds useful, doesn't it? It is intended to be a global organization. Maybe we could use a branch here in Canada over the coming years to lend a hand. Somebody send a bat signal or something.