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January 2016

Making the government's use of evidence more transparent

Sense About Science has been asked by the Cabinet Office and the UK Open Government Network to lead a discussion on making the government's use of evidence more transparent. Civil society organisations and government are working in partnership to produce the UK's National Action Plan on Open Government, and I’m really pleased to be acting as civil society’s leader on proposals to improve the public’s access to information. The proposals include:

  • Government departments committing to an evidence transparency framework
  • A single register for all government research
  • A single point of contact for public evidence requests in every public body
  • Improving how freedom of information works to make policymaking more effective and accountable.

If you can help develop these ideas, please come to a workshop we’re holding on Tuesday 9th February where we’ll discuss the aims behind the proposals and what might be done to achieve them. Your input will inform the final Open Government commitments in the National Action Plan. 

You can register here for the workshop, which is kindly hosted by the Royal Statistical Society, and co-organised with the Open Data Institute who will lead a discussion on the better use of open data.

To challenge the evidence behind public policy, the public needs to know the findings of government-commissioned research, the role that this evidence has played, and the extent to which contra-evidence, limitations in the evidence base and alternative policies have been considered. But before we can evaluate any of this, we need to know what's been looked at, which means making the evidence base more transparent as promised in the civil service reform plan in 2012. This would enable more scrutiny (by policy folk, researchers and the public) of where government is or isn't using the best available evidence.

This is broadly the conversation that Sense About Science and others promoting access to information and better policymaking have been having, leading to the proposals above. So join us at our workshop, or email me your suggestions, to take this excellent opportunity to improve how transparently government uses evidence and data.