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Research Question

  1. What are the emerging social, political and technological changes that may be affecting the ways in which the British public engage with politics, policymaking, services and information sources, and what is the role of evidence within this process?

Sense about Science and the Nuffield Foundation commissioned RAND Europe to provide an overview of emerging trends and social changes which may affect the way in which the British public understand and engage with the political process, policymaking, services and information sources, and the role of evidence and expert opinion within this. The report was intended to offer background context — and inspire further discussion and thinking — at a workshop on influencing the policymaking environment to support initiatives on the use of evidence, hosted by Sense about Science and the Nuffield Foundation.

The report discusses key social, technological and political changes that may affect the policymaking environment in the years to come. These include: demographic change; economic uncertainty; the increasingly flexible, fragmented and plural nature of our shared and individual identities; the rise of social media and their impact on the traditional media; political pluralism; new avenues for state–public and public–public communication and political activism; and the spread of rumours and misinformation. The authors note that these trends are highly interconnected and the ways in which they interact are difficult both to disentangle and to predict. Long-term forecasts would therefore be tenuous, and, rather than venture firm conclusions or posit causal relationships between trends and specific outcomes, the authors seek instead to provoke reflection on the implications of this changing context for those seeking to centre the role of independent analysis and evidence in the policymaking process.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Approach to this paper

  • Chapter Two

    Why this matters: trust, political engagement and evidence

  • Chapter Three

    Where we are: cynicism, influence and trust in the public sphere

  • Chapter Four

    Winds of change: shifts in the public relationship to the policymaking process

  • Chapter Five

    Where we are going: emerging themes and key messages

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for Sense about Science and the Nuffield Foundation and conducted by RAND Europe.

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