Are Evaluations Useful? A Review of the Literature on Knowledge and Decision-making

Are Evaluations Useful? A Review of the Literature on “Knowledge and Decision-making”.

by Agence Française de Développement

The use of evaluations to improve public policy-making is a central issue in a number of ongoing debates in the development aid sector, notably in connection with the drive to increase aid effectiveness and develop impact evaluations. A vast body of literature has studied this question, drawing its theoretical references from
more general works that examine how research is used in the social sciences, or more specifically how research results are used (evidence use) to improve public policy-making. This open-ended/broad review of the literature focuses on identifying key points from selected studies in order to further this ongoing debate.

In the first section, the theoretical framing for using research in decision-making will be described, based on the literature dealing with the various utilisation models and the factors that influence them.

The following section will focus more directly on evaluation. First, the particularities of evaluation as opposed to research will be examined and then utilisation models and determining factors will be analysed in light of these specificities.

A brief conclusion will present the key lessons that the authors have drawn from their review of the literature with respect to their own experience.