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

Levidow, Les and Papaioannou, Theo (2016). Policy-driven, narrative-based evidence-gathering: UK priorities for decarbonisation through biomass. Science and Public Policy, 43(1) pp. 46–61.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/scipol/scv016


Evidence-based policy-making (EBPM) has been a much-debated concept, attracting various theoretical interpretations. This paper builds on those 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 problem-diagnoses, societal visions, policy narratives and evidence-gathering. This process is illuminated by the theoretical concept of socio-technical 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. An earlier policy vision for decentralised bioenergy has been kept marginal. The dominant narrative has been reinforced by the government’s multi-stakeholder consultation favouring incumbent industry and by incentive structures for industry co-investment.

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