Probing for Proof, Plausibility, Principle and Possibility: A New Approach to Assessing Evidence in a Systematic Evidence Review

Anouk S. Rigterink and Mareike Schomerus

Development Policy Review, 2016, 34 (1): 5-27

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This article proposes a new approach to assessing evidence during a systematic evidence review aiming to inform international development policy. Drawing lessons from a number of social science systematic evidence reviews, the article identifies how the methods limiting perspective on evidence (including the exclusive focus on gold standard’ empirical information) has serious disadvantages for the usability of evidence reviews for policy. This article aims to provide an alternative framework that allows for a less exclusionary, yet policy-practical, way of assessing evidence. We propose four perspectives on evidence, appropriate for different stages in the policy process: principle when setting or prioritising broad policy goals, plausibility when assessing specific future policies, proof when evaluating past policies and possibility when striving for innovation and allowing exchange of ideas.

Evidence-based policymaking in Myanmar? Considerations of a post-conflict development dilemma

Mareike Schomerusand Hakan Seckinelgin

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With a few months to go to Myanmar’s national elections, a further spotlight has been shone

on the country’s political transition and developments since the groundbreaking national

elections of 2010. The past five years have seen a tremendous change in the country, leaving

citizens and analysts both hopeful and sceptical about the direction and sustainability of such

rapidly-paced change (Jones 2014, Cheesman, Skidmore, and Wilson 2010). How to support

what is perceived as positive change is a concern within the international development

community now increasingly engaged in Myanmar, often operating with extremely limited

information. This means that assumptions on how Myanmar’s path might look are often

based on seemingly similar experiences elsewhere. However, what is made less explicit is

that international actors contribute to the changing political landscape in many ways. One

topic of discussion that has been made more prominent through the increased presence of

international development actors and their experiences and foci elsewhere has been how to

approach issues of transition and development through evidence-based policies. Implicit in

this is an expression of the need for more information; further, basing policies on evidence is

broadly expected to lead to improvement and transparency. But is pushing for better evidence

in the policy-making process an obviously beneficial approach for Myanmar?