Evidence for Use

Project leaders:  Nancy CartwrightEleonora Montuschi & Eileen Munro

There is a world-wide trend to insist that scientifically-based evidence must play a central role in setting policy. Understanding the significance of evidence for the costs, benefits and acceptability of proposed policies is far more complicated than evidence within the natural or social science themselves and far more complicated than most advocates of evidence based/informed policy seem to suppose.

This project, originally sponsored by the LSE Seed Research Fund, aims at investigating what evidence is for evidence-based policy, how it can best be used in particular policy contexts, and how it can enhance the objectivity of the decisions made in those contexts.

As of late the project has developed its research agenda into a wider field: Knowledge for Use (see below).


Current projects

Policy Insight Group in collaboration with CHESS (Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society, University of Durham)

Constituted in 2013, Policy Insight Group is a UK research network based on voluntary cooperation among researchers with backgrounds in methodology, policy deliberation and evaluation dedicated to the improvement of policy outcomes through better deliberation and use of evidence.

PIG aims to expand the concept of evidence to address the broad range of issues that users must consider, to understand and improve deliberation and practical judgement and to develop language, tools, and guidelines for using evidence.

Current projects are grouped into four work streams: 1) causal modelling for policy prediction; 2) sources of outcome variation, especially the role of therapist, organisation and context variables; 3) development of frameworks working with stakeholder groups; 4) deliberation and expertise.

Group members: Alexandra Androvna, Nancy Cartwright, Jeremy Clarke, Damian Fennell, David Lane, Eleonora Montuschi, Eileen Munro, Jeremy Hardie, Julian Reiss, Alice Sampson, Hakan Seckinelgin, Eliott Stern.

Further information is available on the CHESS website.

Knowledge for Use

Knowledge for Use (K4U) is an innovative, interdisciplinary and multi-institutional ERC funded research project that weaves together six case studies and two research streams. The case studies and the research streams work collaboratively to develop evidence and theory to help fortify policies.

K4U is a five-year research project funded by an 'Advanced Grant' of just over two million euros from the European Research Council under Horizon 2020 . 'Research is an investment in our future’ says Horizon 2020. That’s only true if you know what to do with it. When it comes to social policy, we don’t really know how to put our research results to use. K4U aims to remedy this. K4U will construct a radically new picture of how to use social science to build better social policies.

The project started in November 2015, and is a collaboration between Durham University (Department of Philosophy and School of Applied Social Sciences), LSE (Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science - CPNSS) and Università Ca'Foscari Venezia. It brings together a group of top senior researchers and experts with both philosophical and practical expertise, and, through six case studies K4U attacks specific societal challenges.

Further information is available on the CHESS research pages.


Research team

Nancy Cartwright

Nancy Cartwright is Professor of Philosophy at Durham University. She is the co-director of the Order project, a past Macarthur Fellow, a Fellow of the British Academy and member of the Standing Committee on Research and Evidentiary Standards, The National Academies, Washington D.C. Her principal interests are philosophy and history of science (especially physics and economics), causal inference and objectivity in science.

View Nancy's latest publications on her website.

Jeremy Clark

Jeremy Clark is a practising psychotherapist, working in the NHS, providing evidence based psychoanalytic therapy; and training and supervising other clinicians in this new approach. In 2009 he was awarded a Fellowship by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for his contribution to developing evidence based practice, and in 2012 a CBE for his contribution to mental health as national adviser to successive recent governments in scaling up access to therapy on the NHS. Currently he is an advisor to NICE’s Centre for Guidance and a member of the expert group revising its Depression guideline. Since 2007 he has organised an annual conference devoted to scientific debates in evidence-based practice: Psychological Therapies in the NHS (see ).

He works on devising better models for using professional judgement to predict what will work for whom, and better methods for NICE and the EU for future guidelines. With Andrew Fletcher he leads one of the case studies of Knowledge for Use: Mental health in the EU: Providing ‘objective’ evidence for mental health policies. 

Jeremy Hardie

Jeremy Hardie is a Research Associate at the CPNSS. He was previously an academic economist, and  until 1999 in business and public life in a variety of companies and institutions in Britain. Drawing on his experience outside academia his research concentrates on the relationship between rationalist theories of deciding, and the role of intuition, judgment, expertise and emotion.

His area of work spans theories of practical reason, the insights of experimental psychology, and the practicalities of decision making in business and government. His main focus is on the conflict between the need for accountability and transparency in public life and the complexity of how decisions are made, which cannot be reduced even ex post facto to the operation of systematic, explicit, rule-bound procedures.

With Eleonora Montuschi he coordinates the Research Stream 2 of Knowledge for Use: Deliberating Policy 

Eleonora Montuschi

Eleonora Montuschi is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Venice Ca' Foscari and Senior Research Fellow at LSE. Her area of expertise is in the philosophy of science and social science. She works on objectivity, the theory and practice of evidence, and methodological issues of the social sciences.

View Eleonora's latest publications on her website.

Eileen Munro

Eileen Munro is Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics. Her current research interests include how best to combine intuitive and analytic reasoning in risk assessment and decision making in child protection, and the role of the wider organisational system in promoting or hindering good critical thinking. At the request of the Secretary of State for Education, she undertook a review of child protection and has produced a final report on this in April 2011.

Hakan Seckinelgin

Hakan Seckinelgin is Associate Professor in International Social Policy in Department of SocialPolicy, LSE and leads the global civil society research program in LSE Global Governance. Hisresearch is focused on the relationship between international institutions, their politics and the waypeople experience policies in their everyday lives. His research explores the relationship betweenthe development of international politics of HIV/AIDS, policies, and the way people live with thedisease in different socio-cultural and political contexts.

View Hakan's latest publications on his website.



K4U@LSE Discussion Group -- For more information please email Eleonora Montuschi.

For an updated list of current events and activities see and

To be put on the K4U mailing list please email Adrian Harris.


Past projects

Philosophy of evidence in practice

"Theory of Evidence for Use"

Sponsored by British Academy, BARDA scheme; October 2009-2011.

Investigator: Nancy Cartwright

This project aims to provide a systematic account of evidence for policy effectiveness that can be of practical use in evidence-based policy. Its fundamental assumption is that whether an intervention will be effective in situ depends on the causal structure of the situation in which it is implemented and on its method of implementation. This assumption generates criteria for relevance and evaluation. Modelling the causal structure can seem a tall order. But, it is argued, it is an enterprise we do often, albeit informally, and do reasonably well. And there are a number of heuristics that can help.

This project aims to translate this assumption into an accessible account of how to marshal the right kinds of evidence for predicting outcomes. In particular the project will focus on what philosophers call 'INUS' conditions (which epidemiologists call 'sufficient causal complexes') – the auxiliary conditions necessary for a cause to produce its canonical effects, and on answers to the question, how would the proposed intervention as implemented achieve the targeted effect? Reasonable, evidence-based assessments of these can often generate a good enough grip on the causal structure to provide relatively reliable predictions about policy outcomes.)

Child welfare policies

"Choices of evidence: tacit philosophical assumptions in debates on evidence-based practice in children's welfare services"

Sponsored by AHRC, January 2010–January 2012

Principal investigator: Eileen Munro (Social Policy, LSE)

Co-investigators: Nancy Cartwright and Eleonora Montuschi

Associate investigator: Jeremy Hardie

Research assistants: A. Spray; R. Alfandari; L. Caffrey

There is a growing interest in using the rigour of scientific methods to develop a more reliable knowledge base for intervening in family life with the aim of improving children's safety and well being. Empirical studies are being conducted in several countries to evaluate the effectiveness of services and these are forming a body of research that can be drawn upon by those making decisions about how best to help families. The Evidence Based Policy and Practice movement promotes the value of using research but the way it is developing is in danger of losing the rigour of scientific research and of undermining the justifiable confidence we have in the findings of empirical research.
This project aims to analyse and evaluate under what conditions (theoretical and practical) children, young people and families can benefit from the lessons from empirical studies and evidence-driven research. 
The project was suspended by one year to allow the principle investigator to compile the 'Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report - A child-centred system', published in 2011. The research team is now completing an end-of-project pamphlet by the provisional title 'Improving child welfare decisions: the role of research'.

Climate change models

"Climate change models: what are they evidence for?"

Sponsored by ESRC funded Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy

 Investigators: Nancy Cartwright and Roman Frigg

State-of-the-art, physics-based computer models in climate science are currently unable to represent some processes at all (hurricanes are just too small) and they make first order errors in the representation of other processes which are well observed (the timing of tropical rainfall, the gradient of sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic, the frequency of blocking phenomena that impact European weather. They are the most complicated members of a hierarchy of science-based models, and they support the general conclusions suggested by simpler "back of the envelope" models. As only a naïve realist view would argue that these models are picture-perfect mirrors of the real world, how could then their outputs be used as 'evidence' for policy decision?

The development of a coherent approach for interpreting state-of-the-art climate models as evidence for decision support would be a major contribution to philosophy, physical science and decision-theory with immediate practical applications.

Educational policy

"Evidence for Use: Prolegomena to a theory of evidence for evidence-based education policy"

Sponsored by The Spencer Foundation, Michaelmas 2007

Investigator: Nancy Cartwright

This short project looked in the US at the putative failure of the California class-size reduction programme and in the UK at the discussion of the successes and failures of the programme for inner-city academies.)

VPI-LSE Error/Evidence Project

This is a collaborative project. The project is directed by Deborah Mayo and Nancy Cartwright. It is sponsored by the Mayo-Chatfield Fund for the Study of E.R.R.O.R.S (Experimental Reasoning, Reliability, Objectivity and Rationality of Science), based at the University of Virginia Tech.There are two wings in this project:

a) Statistics and evidence, led by Deborah Mayo.

It explores the current landscape in philosophical foundations of statistics and the use of statistical methods in evidence-based practice and policy (e.g., medicine, economics).

b) Evidence Based Policy in International Development (EID), led by Nancy Cartwright.

The international development arena provides an important challenge for the discussions of EBP. While problems are generally identified and policies are formulated, the contexts of implementation are widely diverse. Furthermore, people's everyday lives in these diverse contexts challenge any simplistic articulation or production of evidence for a general policy concern.


Past events

  • A conference on "Statistical Science and Philosophy of Science: Where Do/Should They Meet in 2010 (and Beyond)?", LSE, 21–22 June 2010.  
  • "Evidence in child welfare: Framing questions for future research", workshop, 15 June 2009, Graham Wallas room, 2–6pm
  • "International Development and Evidence-based Policy", CPNSS, LSE. A half-day workshop, jointly organised by CPNSS and ODI led by Hakan Seckinelgin, Tim Allen (DESTIN LSE), Arabella Fraser (Oxfam), Julius Court (DfID), Enrique Mendizabal (ODI) and Nancy Cartwright. 22 May 2008, room S78 (LSE).
  • "Statistical Science and Philosophy of Science" Conference at LSE