The term is usually applied to the practices or policies of an organization, institution or governmental unit that are derived from, or based on objective, balanced, and responsible current research, and the most reliable, available data.   It was used originally in the health care and social sciences but is now widely applied, including in developing environmental policies and practices.

The evidence-based approach contrasts with practices or policies based on anecdotes or professional opinion or experience, which are thought to be subjective; on tradition (“we always have done it this way”); or, on political considerations (sometimes subject to undue influence or corruption).







The term is meant to limit practices and policies affecting the public to those founded on reliable and transparent data and analyses.  Sometimes, however, the term is evoked but is in actuality simply a smokescreen to hide a practice or policy that is based on input or data that has been manipulated to benefit a special-interest group rather than the general public.


Some further ideas to explore on Evidence-Based:

Select a recently adopted environmental practice or policy, at the local or national level, and figure out whether it is evidence-based.  How can you tell?

Select an environmental practice or policy that is not evidence-based and determine on what the practice or policy was based:  special interests, tradition, anecdotes, professional advice?

What is the relationship between evidence-based policy and fake news?



Sophie Sutcliffe and Julius Court, Evidence-Based Policymaking: What is it? How does it work? What relevance for developing countries? Overseas Development Institute (November 2005).

Julie A. Jacobs, MPH; Ellen Jones, PhD; Barbara A. Gabella, MSPH; Bonnie Spring, PhD; Ross C. Brownson, PhD, “Tools for Implementing an Evidence-Based Approach in Public Health Practice,” Preventing Chronic Disease (CDC) (2012).

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