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Dr Phil Sayer

  • BS8 1TZ

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Research interests

My primary research interests lie in the exploration of theoretical justifications that have been offered for different approaches towards the production of evidence for decision-making purposes. The discourse surrounding 'evidence-based policy' frequently distinguishes between better and worse forms of evidence, usually on the basis of the research methods used to produce the evidence. Randomised controlled trials, for example, are often referred to as a 'gold standard' of evidence. My PhD thesis argued, firstly, that such claims for the primacy of particular research methods are questionable and, secondly, that the extensive concern with epistemic qualities of accuracy and truth is in danger of obscuring the ultimate goal of effective decision-making. Methodological rigour is important, but its dominance of the policy-making literature marginalises other legitimate aspects of the decision-making process.

More broadly, I enjoy researching topics in the philosophy of social science and the interface between philosophy, theory and practice in the social sciences. How ought we to react when our simple, powerful models come into conflict with messy, complex realities? In which approaches or methodologies can we have the most confidence of producing reliable information in an uncertain world? Questions such as these often cut across disciplinary boundaries and require reflection on the very idea of social science.

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