Statement of Principles for Sound Decision-Making in Canada


The Statement of Principles for Sound Decision-Making in Canada should resonate with all evaluators. I suggest that for principles #1 and 2 there may be multiple ways to generate high integrity, rigorous and transparent evidence. There may also be multiple approaches to analysis/synthesis. Our Canadian evaluation 'principle' has typically been that multiple perspectives and approaches are generally better than singular approaches when addressing issues. The stated principles allude to this by suggesting that scientific researchers and indigenous knowledge holders should exchange information. Could we broaden it to suggest that evidence can be generated, exchanged, interpreted and used across multiple discipline groups, stakeholders and interests? In my view there is a 'wisdom of crowds' thesis buried in here that might be clarified.

The statement also begs the question, 'How do we mobilize these principles? ' Instead of the proposed chief science officer, might there be a need for a chief 'evidence' officer or office? ... Could that office be populated with or at minimum advised by people (hopefully recognized leaders) representing distinct knowledge fields and approach communities? and might that call for at least one evaluator in that office to help bring different disciplines and approaches together? Could the chief evidence officer or office report independently to Parliament? Perhaps the officer or office could report to a revamped and revitalized Senate Committee which might hold transparent and public hearings of the evidence generated from different approaches and perspectives related to major issues and policy debates of the day ? Can we take steps to (re) institutionalize the use of evidence in public policy making ?

Thank you, Steve, for these stimulating thoughts. I just want to add a concern to the mix: a democracy is the reign of the majority with built-in constraints to respect the minority. It is crucial to treat evidence, scientific and otherwise, as one of many inputs in the public debate. We cannot surrender to the tyranny of evidence because evidence is (1) never perfect and (2) always value-laden.

Benoît Gauthier