Understanding, negotiating and navigating the politicisation of evidence-based policy research: the case of Irish research on lone parent labour market activation policy
Utilising a case study of evidence-based policy (EBP) commissioned by government we explore how academic outputs can serve several purposes, depending on the political milieu and the values and ideologies of any given party. Our commissioned research was being carried out in the context of significant policy change for lone parents in Ireland which saw the introduction of labour market activation. The research was initially used by the then Government to appease the Opposition to the highly emotive policy change. Following a general election, Opposition and advocacy groups called on policymakers to acknowledge the report they had commissioned. Concepts of research(er) deficit, normative reality and a shifting ‘policy agora’ are explored to highlight how the political context shaped the uptake of the research findings. We followed the debate by drawing on publicly available documentary evidence relevant to the policy of lone parent activation in Ireland from pertinent parliamentary and committee debates involving all stakeholders, that is the Government, civil servants, Opposition and advocacy groups, to ascertain what happened with the research and why did it happen. Attention is given to the consequences of producing outputs that diverge from political values and ideologies, whereby research can be subject to manipulation to discredit and invalidate findings.
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