What kind of social science for what kind of public policy?

Via the Soft Paternalism blog, some thoughts from Jessica Pykett on the newly published report by the House of Lords Inquiry on behaviour change. I think the interesting thing about the findings of the report is that it is another example of the emergence of a clear divide around interpretations of behavioural science in policy debates, a divide framed around the degree to which ‘nudging’ is presented as an alternative or supplement to regulation, legislation, and other standard forms of government action – the coalition government embraces the idea that it is an alternative, the Report from the House of Lords questions this, as do other recent interventions, such as a short piece in The Lancet suggesting that recent government initiatives misrepresent ‘nudge’.

One of the recommendations of the House of Lords report is that an independent Chief Social Scientist be appointed – a response from various submissions arguing that this post should be reinstated. Jessica’s post raises some interesting questions about what counts as ‘social science’ in this sort of world. The last holder of this position was a criminologist by background.

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