Ms Louise Shaxson

Research project: Uncovering the practices of evidence-informed policymaking


My research seeks to understand what evidence-informed policymaking looks like from inside a government department.  While much is written about what it should look like, there is very little detail about how policymakers use evidence in their day to day work.  My research proceeds in three stages: first, establishing a conceptual framework for the use of evidence within a government department.  This draws on work that has been done in the UK and America to strengthen the use of evidence in a range of government departments and Parkhurst's definition of the 'good governance of evidence'.  The second stage will conduct detailed interviews with current and former civil servants in the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which has—over the past decade—developed a strategic approach to how it sources, quality assures and interprets evidence for policy.  The third stage will extend this analysis into the Department of Health.  

  • Research degree: PhD by prior publication/portfolio
  • Title of project: Uncovering the practices of evidence-informed policymaking
  • Research supervisor: Professor Rick Hood


I am currently Director of the Digital Societies programme at the Overseas Development Institute, a think tank based in London.  After working for several years (in several countries) as a researcher and research manager, in 2004 I joined the Science Strategy Team of the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as a management consultant/policy adviser.  I became fascinated by what 'evidence-informed policymaking' looks like in practice and have worked since then to help civil servants in several countries design and implement systems and processes to help them source, appraise, interpret and use evidence more effectively.   Doing a PhD offers me a chance to reflect in a rigorous way on what I've learned.

Areas of research interest

  • Evidence-informed policymaking
  • Government
  • Environmental policy
  • Social care policy


  • BSc in Agricultural Economics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1986)
  • MSc in Agricultural Economics, Cornell University, USA (1990)


2020  Shaxson, L (2020) Understanding policymakers' perspectives on evidence use as a mechanism for improving research-policy relationships.  Environmental Education Research.   Doi:10.1080/13504622.2020.1764505

2019    Shaxson, L (2019) Uncovering the practices of evidence-informed policymaking.  Public Money & Management 39(1):46-55.  Doi: 10.1080/09540962.2019.1537705

2016    Shaxson L, A Datta, M Tshangela & B Matomela Understanding the organisational context for evidence-informed policymaking.  Pretoria: Department for Environmental Affairs and London: ODI

2016    Shaxson L.  Lessons for building and managing an evidence base for policy.  Working Paper.  Jakarta: Knowledge Sector Initiative.

2014    Shaxson, L. Investing in evidence: lessons from the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  Working Paper.  Jakarta: Knowledge Sector Initiative. 

2012    Jones, H., N. Jones, L. Shaxson, D. Walker.  Knowledge, Policy and Power: a practical guide. Bristol: The Policy Press. 

2005    Shaxson, L.J. (2005) Is your evidence robust enough?  Questions for policy makers and practitioners.  Evidence & Policy 1(1): 101-111