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SP50320: Evidence knowledge and data in public policy

[Page last updated: 01 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 18 [equivalent to 36 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 360
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: CW80OT20
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:
  • Assessment detail data for this unit is currently being updated as a change has been approved. Updated assessment information will be published here shortly.
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: By the end of the unit, students will have -
* critical understanding of the differences between data, knowledge and evidence and how these shape public policy, governance and outcomes. (T/F/A)
* in-depth knowledge of major approaches to the use and evaluation of data, knowledge and evidence in, and for, public policy. (T/A)
* in-depth critical understanding of the politics of knowledge and evidence production and how this shapes public policy development and outcomes. (T/A)
* in-depth critical understanding of how the politics and ethics of knowledge and data generation in public policy are being transformed in the digital era. (T/A)

Aims: This unit provides -
* advanced introduction to data, knowledge and evidence and how their changing conceptualization has shaped public policy historically and in contemporary policy work.
* in-depth review of major approaches and techniques to the use and evaluation of data, knowledge and evidence in public policy.
* comprehensive and in-depth review of the politics of knowledge and evidence production and how this shapes public policy.
* exploration of the conceptual issues, politics and ethics of knowledge and data use for public policy in the digital era.

Skills: By the end of the unit, students will be able to -
* critically interpret data and evidence produced for public policy from a range of sources and approaches, including digital data. (F/A)
* critically evaluate the relevance and applicability of specific types of data and evidence for different policy areas and types of policy problem. (T/F/A)
* evaluate how politics of knowledge production generates gaps and blindspots in public policy including how methods and knowledge practices are responding to digitisation and datafication; (F/A)
* design, undertake and evaluate research projects incorporating digital methods, tools and data using a variety of data analysis and visualisation tools (F/A)

Content: The three parts of the unit are not equally weighted in terms of student learning and the assessment burden. Part one is shorter, and designed to orient students to the dual emphasis in this unit, on a) the role of knowledge production, management and use in public policy, and b) on the different techniques and approaches. Parts two and three form the main part of the unit.
Block ONE - politicising knowledge in public policy
* What is knowledge/data/evidence, and what are the differences between them?
* Public policy, quantification & the rise of the Data Society
* The social and political lives of methods /knowledge production in public policy
* Changing sites of knowledge production: universities, think tanks, experiential knowledge, social media
Block TWO - generating and interpreting evidence in public policy
This part of the unit teaches key approaches and techniques to research and analysis in public policy, according to staff expertise and contemporary relevance in public policy. This includes both
* analysis of policy & policy making, e.g.: Network analysis (SNA); Policy & institutional ethnography; Investigative methods, including freedom of information; Interpretive Policy Analysis; Governance Analysis; case study & comparative analysis (including quantitative data analysis)
* analysis for policy & policymaking, e.g.: policy evaluation; CBA; Secondary data analysis & indicator construction; Delphi methods; citizens' juries; Deliberative policy analysis; Policy Labs and policy design; systematic review For each technique there are 3 elements:
* how is the knowledge generated related to the creation & contestation of public policy? What is it typically used for, in which contexts and why?
* what are the methods and techniques?
* how do we read research produced in this way in order to create, shape, contest public policy? What are its strengths and weaknesses in different policy contexts?
Block THREE - going digital
This part of the unit addresses the rapidly changing knowledge and public policy environment. It familiarises students with the production, generation, control, and use of digital data, and explores how these affect public policy, how it is interpreted and how 'digital government' is achieved. It comprises two topics:
* Information Infrastructure - Digital Methods - Platform and Software
* Ways of Seeing Data & data visualisation - Data Worlds - Data Publics "open data" initiatives and participatory design.

Programme availability:

SP50320 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
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