The webs of belief around 'evidence' in legislatures: The case of select committees in the UK House of Commons

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Abstract

A wide-ranging literature has explored the relationship between research, knowledge and policy. However, legislatures have often been overlooked in this research. While some studies have looked at ‘who has access’, the literature on how parliaments seek to engage with knowledge claims is particularly scarce. This article addresses this gap through a case study of UK select committees. By adopting an interpretive lens, the article explores how MPs and officials make sense of evidence in committee settings. It finds that legalistic definitions around ‘evidence’ shape wider beliefs in how to engage with knowledge claims and the practices of undertaking inquiries, and are underpinned by a distinctly political function of knowledge use in politics. Beliefs around evidence have significant repercussions and highlight tensions (i) around the authority of committee reports, (ii) between epistemic and democratic claims, and (iii) with respect to who is included and excluded.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration
Early online date28 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • evidence-based policy
  • parliamentary committees
  • interpretive political science
  • British politics
  • legislative studies

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