When research is not good enough

3 July 2012

The Huffington Post´s Sabrina Stevens recently blogged about the possible effects of bad education research on policy, in light of the National Education Policy Centre´s annual “Bunkum Awards”, given to the worst think tank reports of the year regarding education policy. Six Bunkums were handed out, and three of them were for particularly incompetent reports: ConnCAN´s Spend Smart, the Centre for American Progress´ Charting New Territory, and the Progressive Policy Institute´s Going Exponential.

While meant to be a humorous remark on bad research, the Bunkum Awards do point out that the preponderance of poorly supported advocacy is a serious issue which really isn’t considered as such, since it is usually dressed up as official policy research:

Too often, these reports are printed, published and spread throughout the mass media and beyond, without critique. They are then used to promote a specific kind of “reform,” as advocates — intentionally or not — mislead the public into believing that “research says” a given policy is a great idea, even when little to no credible evidence exists to support such a claim.

Since advocacy research tries to keep up with public policy debate, it is not put through a rigorous academic review process, and this sometimes leads to misleading facts and bad sources. It is important, then, for policy makers as well as the general public to educate themselves on this fact.