The epistemic perspective sees consultation as a process of developing knowledge to support better policymaking. Participants talked about the importance of evidence, and the need for inclusion so that many perspectives can be taken into account when making policy. The government’s role here is to make the final decisions based on good quality knowledge. In this view, good policymaking should be based on rigorous evidence, and the government is responsible for weighing up the importance of different views.
Some people think consultations do this well overall, drawing on the evidence and expertise of key stakeholders outside government. However, concerns emerged about:
Evidence gaps - Do we lack evidence about particular sectors of the economy (e.g., tech start-ups) or groups (e.g., ordinary members of the public) who may not have the resources to provide evidence? How can we understand unintended consequences and future impacts of policy?
Quality of evidence - How can we ensure the quality of the evidence we receive? Is it reliable and valid? Is qualitative as well as quantitative data valuable?
Analysis of evidence - How is evidence analysed and interpreted? Is all evidence reflected in the final decision or is evidence cherry-picked?