From her position at the “centre of power” or the “belly of the beast”, Dr Mateora Sadan, Senior Policy Analyst in the policy co-ordination advisory service within the South African Presidency shared her reflections on the nature of “evidence based policy making across the South African government system. This is the audio recording of her presentation during the opening session of the “Locating Power of In-between” conference.
Speaking openly and frankly Dr Sadan argued that there has definitely been a shift towards wanting to engage and utilise research more, but acknowledged that there is uneven use of research evidence across different departments. Dr Sadan cited the Department of a Social Development as a positive example of a department that engages with evidence, motivated she argued by their need to defend their decisions to the Treasury Department. However in other parts of the government system often people use research that supports their position, that might come down to basing decisions on one research paper.
Dr Sadan identified problems as lying with both researchers and policy makers: she questioned the communication style of some researchers, saying that within government circles some research reports are known as “doorstoppers” as they are so heavy and impenetrable; on the other hand she questioned the assumption that policy makers are actually able to assess and interpret information and apply it effectively. She then went on to identify some practical approaches to addressing these challenges.