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Policy-driven, narrative-based evidence-gathering: UK priorities for decarbonisation through biomass

Levidow, L   Papaioannou, T

Science and Public Policy   43 (1) 46-61

DOI: 10.1093/scipol/scv016

February 2016   (Early online date May 2015)

Evidence-based policy-making has been a much-debated concept. This paper builds on various insights for a novel perspective: policy-driven, narrative-based evidence gathering. In a case study of UK priority setting for bioenergy innovation, documents and interviews were analysed to identify links between diagnoses of the problem, societal visions, policy narratives and evidence gathering. This process is illuminated by the theoretical concept of sociotechnical imaginaries—technoscientific projects which the state should promote for a feasible, desirable future. Results suggest that evidence has been selectively generated and gathered within a specific future vision, whereby bioenergy largely provides an input-substitute within the incumbent centralised infrastructure. Such evidence is attributed to an external expertise, thus helping to legitimise the policy framework. Evidence has helped to substantiate policy commitments to expand bioenergy. The dominant narrative has been reinforced by the government’s multi-stakeholder consultation favouring the incumbent industry and by incentive structures for industry co-investment.

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