Social Science and Public Policy

Richard Freeman

backpublications - knowledge and learning in public policy

Knowing Governance. The epistemic construction of political order
Voß, J-P and Freeman, R

Knowing Governance sets out to understand governance through the design and making of its models and instruments. What kinds of knowledge do they require and reproduce? How are new understandings of governance produced in practice, by scientists and policy makers and by the publics with whom they engage? How does politics work through the production of ideas and information that both describe and prescribe how governing is done? This book outlines and explores a new approach to the study of governance at the intersection of governmentality studies, interpretive policy studies and science and technology studies. Each chapter presents an empirically-grounded case study of how particular accounts of governing are worked out, and how new realities of governance emerge in the course of making it knowable. Each introduces and applies a key concept from science and technology studies, setting out a variety of ways of making knowledge about governance and its constituent politics.

Publication Type: book      Source: London: Palgrave Macmillan
Date: 2015       Link:

Introduction: knowing governance
Voß, J-P and Freeman, R

Knowing Governance sets out to understand governance through the making of knowledge about governance itself. We are interested in the means by which those who govern and those who engage with them come to know what they do: we seek to identify and explore the devices with which they work and the processes and practices and by which they establish and expand particular models and techniques. Drawing on work on governmentality, in interpretive policy studies and in science and technology studies we explain just how we might identify, problematize and investigate the elements of 'knowing governance'. We outline the set of case studies collected here, and conclude by pointing to more general questions of reification and reflexivity raised by our work.

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: London: Palgrave Macmillan
Date: 2015       Link:

Introduction: knowledge in policy - embodied, inscribed, enacted
Freeman, R and Sturdy, S

The literature on the role of knowledge in policy making encompasses a striking diversity of views on just what knowledge is, what different types of knowledge there may be and how they are to be observed empirically. In this paper, we propose a new phenomenology of knowledge based not on 'who knows what, how and why' but on the form that knowledge takes. Drawing a simple analogy with the three phases of matter - solid, liquid and gas - we argue that knowledge too exists in three phases, which we characterise as embodied, inscribed and enacted. And just as matter may pass from one phase to another, so too knowledge moves and is transformed, through various kinds of action, between phases. We conclude by discussing some of the implications of our perspective for future work, both in research and policy.

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Bristol: Policy Press
Date: 2015       Link:

Knowledge in Policy. Embodied, inscribed, enacted
Freeman, R and Sturdy, S (eds)

This important collection presents a radical reconception of the place of knowledge in contemporary policymaking in Europe, based not on assumptions about evidence, expertise or experience but on the different forms that knowledge takes. Knowledge is embodied in people, inscribed in documents and instruments, and enacted in specific circumstances. Empirical case studies of health and education policy in different national and international contexts demonstrate the essential interdependence of different forms and phases of knowledge. They illustrate the ways in which knowledge is mobilised and resisted, and draw attention to key problems in the processing and transformation of knowledge in policy work. This novel theoretical framework offers real benefits for policymakers, academics in public policy, public administration, management studies, sociology, education, public health and social work, and those with a practical interest in education and health and related fields of public policy.

Publication Type: book      Source: Bristol: Policy Press
Date: 2015       Link:

Knowledge, policy and coordinated action: mental health in Europe
Freeman, R and Sturdy, S

As a knowledge-based international agency, WHO offers a useful opportunity to explore the nature of knowledge in policy making. Between 12 and 15 January 2005, a WHO Ministerial Conference on Mental Health in Europe took place in Helsinki: the Declaration and Action Plan it approved quickly became a touchstone for subsequent developments in mental health policy in Europe. Our discussion sets out just how embodied, inscribed and enacted knowledges are deployed in the production, development and dissemination of a policy initiative.

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Bristol: Policy Press
Date: 2015       Link:

Knowledge and policy in research and practice
Freeman, R and Sturdy, S

We sum up this volume by restating our initial ambition, which was to develop a framework for investigation rather than to formulate any specific theory. We turn to each element of our model - embodied, inscribed, enacted - in turn, and consider what we have learned from their application and elaboration in the case studies collected here. We identify the implications of our work both for research design and method and for practice, and close by reflecting more abstractly on the relationship between knowledge and policy.

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Bristol: Policy Press
Date: 2015       Link:

Making knowledge for international policy: WHO Europe and mental health policy, 1970-2008
Sturdy, S, Freeman, R and Smith-Merry, J

It is widely agreed that the effectiveness of the World Health Organization (WHO) as a policy body derives chiefly from its reputation as a source of authoritative knowledge. However, little has been done to show just how WHO mobilises knowledge for policy purposes. Rather, commentators tend simply to assume that the WHO is a technocratic organisation, which uses technical expertise to define normative, universally-applicable standards on which to base policy. This paper tells a rather more complex story. Looking in detail at the efforts of the WHO European Regional Office, since the 1970s, to reform mental health policy across the region, it shows that the organisation’s main policy successes in this field were achieved, not by circulating standardised data or policies, but by creating opportunities to share holistic, experience-based and context-sensitive knowledge of instances of best practice. We go on to analyse our findings in light of ideas about 'epistemic communities', and show how an appreciation of the nature and constitution of epistemic communities can illuminate the different ways that knowledge may inform international policy.

Publication Type: journal paper      Source: Social History of Medicine, forthcoming
Date: 2013

Analysing policy transfer: perspectives for operational research
Bissell, K, Lee, K and Freeman, R

Policy transfer occurs regularly. In essence, a strategy developed elsewhere is taken up and applied in another policy context. Yet what precisely is policy transfer and, more importantly, under what conditions does it occur? This paper describes policy transfer and addresses three main questions, exploring what perspectives of policy transfer might contribute to operational research (OR) efforts. First, what facilitates the transfer of OR results into policy and practice? Second, what facilitates effective lesson-drawing about OR results and processes between and within countries? And third, what would increase the amount of OR being carried out by low- and middle-income countries and used to inform policy and practice at local and global levels? Mexico’s adoption and adaptation of the DOTS strategy is used here as an example of policy transfer. Policy transfer is relevant to all countries, levels and arenas of people, institutions and organisations involved in health. With a more systematic analysis of learning and policy processes, OR policy and practice outcomes could be improved at all levels, from local to global. Policy transfer offers theory and concepts for analysing OR from a new perspective. The present paper proposes a model of the policy transfer process for qualitative research use. Comprehensive policy transfer research, given its length, complexity and need for qualitative researchers, should not be envisaged for all OR projects. All OR projects could, however, incorporate some concepts and practical tools inspired from this model. This should help to plan, evaluate and improve OR processes and the resulting changes in policy and practice.

Publication Type: journal paper      Source: International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease 15 (9) 1140-1148
Date: 2011       Link:

Comparing health systems

This chapter reviews the modes and functions of cross-national comparison in health services research and policy.

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Mullner, R (ed) Encyclopaedia of Health Services Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Date: 2009       Link:

The United Kingdom: health policy learning in the NHS
Exworthy, M and Freeman, R

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Marmor, T R, Freeman, R and Okma, K (eds) Comparative Studies and the Politics of Modern Medical Care, New Haven: Yale UP
Date: 2009       Link:

What is translation?

What is ‘translation’, and how might it help us think differently about knowledge transfer and exchange? The purpose of this article is to set out, for policy makers and practitioners, the theoretical and conceptual resources that translation holds and seems to represent. It begins by recasting research, policy and practice themselves as instances of translation. It explores understandings of translation in literature and linguistics and in the sociology of science and technology, developing them in respect of a brief case study of the seminal women’s health text, Our bodies, ourselves. In concluding, it picks up key themes of uncertainty, practice and complexity.

Publication Type: journal paper      Source: Evidence and Policy 5 (4) 429-447
Date: 2009       Link:

A National Health Service, by comparison

The National Health Service (NHS) has always been compared to other things, to other organizations and systems both at home and abroad. This paper explores those comparisons, beginning with the origins of national public health care in Lloyd George’s study of German social insurance, and ending with Gordon Brown’s claims for the NHS as ‘the best insurance policy in the world’. It considers the comparisons and contrasts made for and with the NHS at the time of its foundation and the comparison of state and market around 1990, before reviewing the contemporary function of comparison as form and basis of health governance. The paper presents three related patterns of thought: one prompted by encounter with the other, one sustained by metaphor and one developed in more formal, analytic comparison. It concludes by discussing why comparison itself is such a dangerous and contested thing.

Publication Type: journal paper      Source: Social History of Medicine 21 (3) 503–520
Date: 2008       Link:

Comparative perspectives and policy learning
Marmor, T, Freeman, R and Okma, K

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Morone, J A, Litman, T J and Robins, L S (eds) Health Politics and Policy, London: Cengage Delmar Learning
Date: 2008       Link:

Learning by meeting

It has become something of a truism that organisational and political environments are internationalised, and that policy making is informed at least in part by increased understanding of what takes place in parallel domains and jurisdictions. Leaders and policy makers learn about, from and with their counterparts elsewhere. By the same token, the international meeting, workshop or seminar has become a more prominent part of professional, organisational and political routines. This paper asks simply: what do we learn by meeting? While both learning and meeting can be readily dismissed as operations of a crude construction of power, the paper is interested in what might remain. It is notable, for example, that international encounters are often highly valued by participants, albeit in ways they find difficult to express. What do participants experience in meeting, and what do they know differently as a result? Drawing on seminal work by Margeret Mead and others, and using ethnographic and documentary methods, the paper describes processes of introduction, presentation, recognition, confusion, socialisation, communication and reporting. Conceived as a microstudy of purportedly macrolevel activity, it is meant both as an exercise in analytic interpretation and as a resource for participants and practitioners.

Publication Type: journal paper      Source: Critical Policy Analysis 2 (1) 1-24
Date: 2008       Link:

Saglik Politikalari Süricinde Ögrenme [Learning in health policy]

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Keyder, C, Üstündag, Agartan, T and Yoltar, C (eds) Avrupa'da ve Türkiye'de Saglik Politikalari. Reformlar, sorunlar, tartismalar, Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari
Date: 2007       Link:

Epistemological bricolage: how practitioners make sense of learning

How do policy makers come to know what they know? How do they think of learning? And how does that inform what they do? In this qualitative, empirical study, public health officials variously display scientific, institutional, and more socially situated epistemological strategies or rationalities. In turn, the study reveals that a key element of what they do is "piecing together," assembling and literally making sense of different bits of information and experience, often creating something new from what they have acquired secondhand. It shows how much policy making is knowledge work, and how learning might be thought of as a process of epistemological bricolage.

Publication Type: journal paper      Source: Administration and Society 39 (4) 476-496
Date: 2007       Link:

Learning in public policy

Introduction – Convergence, Diffusion, and Learning – Public Policy as Collective Puzzling – Learning in Practice – The Elements of Learning – Learning by Comparison

Publication Type: chapter in book      Source: Rein, M, Moran, M and Goodin, R E (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, Oxford: Oxford UP
Date: 2006       Link:

Learning from devolution: UK policy since 1999
Freeman, R and Woods, K

Publication Type: journal paper      Source: British Journal of Health Care Management 8 (12) 462-466
Date: 2002       Link:


New Knowledge in New Settings: social learning in the health sector

Publication Type: research report      Source: European Science Foundation, Standing Committee for the Social Sciences
Date: 2001       Link: Knowledge in New Settings: social learning in the health sector