Sausages, evidence and policymaking: The role of universities in a post-truth world

By Professor Jonathan Grant

From Tony Blair’s declaration that ‘What counts is what works’ in 1997, to David Cameron’s vow to ‘put evidence at the heart of what we do’ in 2015, political commitments to use research in policymaking have been the norm in recent decades. Even the Ministry of Justice under Michael Gove, whose belief in expertise was, to say the least, subject to some scrutiny last year, promised to ‘put evidence at the heart of what we do’. Continue reading

Five reflections on the Casey Review

By Dr Benedict Wilkinson and Professor Jennifer Rubin.1

To say that the recent publication of the Casey Review into integration and opportunity in our most isolated and deprived communities has divided opinion would be to put it mildly. The Review has been widely picked up for its hard-hitting findings – amongst them, that there are ‘worrying levels of segregation and socioeconomic exclusion in different communities across the country and a number of inequalities between groups’, that ‘too many public institutions… have gone so far to accommodate diversity and freedom of expression that they have ignored or even condoned regressive, divisive and harmful cultural and religious practices’, and that previous ‘cohesion or integration plans have not been implemented with enough force or consistency, they have been allowed to be diluted and muddled, [and] they have not been sufficiently linked to socio-economic inclusion’. Continue reading

Progressive children’s legislation in reverse gear?

By Jane Tunstill, Emeritus Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

It is no coincidence that the longest-running play on the London stage, The Mousetrap, which is still being shown after 64 years, is based on a key tragic event in the history of childcare policy in this country. Agatha Christie recognised that the death of Denis O’Neill in 1945, at the hands of his foster parents, was a topic to engage the attention of her readers, and audiences have certainly proved her right. The tragedy, and subsequent enquiry, directly triggered the 1948 Children Act, which introduced a national framework of children’s departments responsible for the systematic oversight of the welfare of children. Continue reading

Achieving a post-landmine world: The decades-old threat that just won’t go away


Photo credit: Rodney Evans/AusAID, via Wikimedia Commons

What is currently being reused and deployed by so-called Islamic State and also threatens anyone playing the game Pokémon Go on their smartphones in Bosnia, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam? The answer: landmines.

Antipersonnel landmines were first used in the Second World War, and continued to be deployed in conflicts ranging from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War. They are now used in only a handful of conflicts, meaning that the vast majority of mines contaminating land today were laid before the turn of the current century. Continue reading

If we allow marketing to replace leadership we’re taking a dangerous turn

A referendum, like a general election, should be a wonderful opportunity for an electorate to engage directly with issues that matter to them. It should be a chance to hear arguments from all sides and to see evidence supporting or challenging those arguments, enabling an informed decision at the ballot box. In theory. But for a democratic exercise to affirm what it sets out to do – to give people a voice in how their country should proceed – those in positions to inform and influence the wider public need to ensure choices are accompanied by realistic appraisals of what is on offer. Unfortunately, in the wake of our referendum last week, many people feel that some in positions of power have rallied support for their own agenda by marketing to the electorate with false promises. Continue reading