The Nature of the Evidence

Studying the evidence base of policy, stakeholders, and policy design in an in vivo setting [NEVIVO]

The notion that better evidence leads to better (self-)regulation is considered obsolete. Yet, the aspiration that (self-)regulatory changes should be based on evidence persists. Acknowledging this tension. NEVIVO studies how the quantity and quality of evidence impact on different policy stakeholders’ beliefs and their support for policy change, making use of a unique empirical opportunity. We study an ongoing federal policy program targeting hundreds of thousands of low-income households in Germany to undertake meaningful action to increase domestic energy efficiency, supported in part through sizable monetary rewards. As the program has never been evaluated, beliefs about whether and how it is effective and how to improve it are unconstrained by evidence. By being the first to produce such evidence in vivo, by producing different types of evidence, and by being able to selectively expose different policy stakeholders to different quantity and quality of evidence, NEVIVO exploits a critical moment in the life cycle of the policy. NEVIVO proceeds in two distinct, but closely interlinked research steps. In step 1, we generate gold-standard observational (data science) and experimental (randomized control trial) evidence and selectively expose, in a controlled setting, members of different groups to different quantity and quality of evidence. Three of the groups are policy stakeholders (governmental and NGO officials, policy experts, and individuals targeted by the policy); the fourth are participants of a prediction market with no stake in the policy. Measuring changes in beliefs, support for policy changes and action among stakeholders will shed light on the causal relationship between evidence and (self-)regulation. Step 2 provides a qualitative understanding of the way evidence is produced and perceived among different stakeholder groups and will capture the processes through which the perception of evidence fuels political decision-making, thereby taking a comprehensive view of political “action”. Through a series of focus-group interviews with the program’s social workers, deliberative workshops with the targeted household, and a focus interview with political decision-makers, NEVIVO will capture the contextual dimension in which evidence is produced and examine the dynamics of policy stakeholders sharing, deliberating on, and developing proposals for policy change on the basis of gold standard evidence.

Funded by FoF4 (2021-2023), Prof. Kathia Serrano Velarde in cooperation with Prof. Timo Goeschl (economics), Prof. Jale Tosun (political sciences), Prof. Johannes Eurich (theology).