APS200 Project: The Place of Science in Policy Development in the Public Service (2012)

The APS200 Project: The Place of Science in Policy Development in the Public Service report was launched at the 13th annual Science meets Parliament event on 17 September 2012. The report was developed to systematically review the ways in which scientific evidence is used to inform policy development in the Australian Public Service (APS). The report aimed to achieve better government outcomes by addressing ways to use scientific input efficiency in policy development in the public service.

This project emerged from Recommendation 3.2 of Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration, which aims to 'build partnerships with academia, research institutions and the community and private sectors'.

In 2011, the Secretaries Board approved a proposal to commission a new project on 'the place of science in policy development in the public service'.

The report identified five key challenges for incorporating scientific evidence into policy, and proposed practical whole-of-government strategies to overcome these and harness existing opportunities. The recommendations focused on the importance of having the right scientific information at the right time in the policy process, encouraging policy-literate researchers and science-literate policymakers, and supporting effective networks, knowledge translation, knowledge brokering and data and knowledge management. These recommendations were considered by government departments and agencies engaged in policy development and incorporated into internal processes.

Implementation Reviews

In 2013, the Department of Industry commissioned two reviews to document the implementation of the recommendations of the report across government departments and agencies. Both these reviews explored the ways that government organisations had incorporated science into their own policies and frameworks and engaged scientists in the policy process. The Implementation Review: APS200 Project – the Place of Science in Policy provided an overview of how government departments and their portfolio agencies systematically incorporated science into policy. Through examples, the review highlighted potential areas in which departments and their portfolio agencies might be able to further encourage and reinforce the uptake of science in policy by incorporating new ideas or frameworks or translating an example from one organisation into their own. Some examples of such initiatives are:

  • In response to Recommendation 1.1 (regarding the systematic application of science into departmental frameworks), the Department of Agriculture released its Science Strategy 2013-2018, which provides a blueprint for the department that reaffirms the importance of science to its core work and guides its scientific resources.
  • In response to Recommendation 4.1 (regarding communities of practice facilitating regular engagement between researchers and policymakers), the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet initiated a series of workshops entitled Improving collaboration between the APS and researchers. The aim of the workshops was to develop practical strategies and mechanisms to increase collaboration between researchers and policymakers across the APS. The first workshop recommended five strategies for further exploration; the second workshop explored these strategies, discussed their limitations and benefits, and proposed future steps for their realisation and implementation.
  • In response to Recommendation 5.1 (regarding the improvement of access to scientific data), the Attorney General’s Department is developing a Data Collection Framework. The framework is a long-term project that aims to remedy the current lack of consistent and comparable data across the civil justice system.
  • In response to Recommendation 5.2 (regarding a whole-of-government data management proposal), a number of key government departments and agencies released the Australian Public Service Big Data Strategy: Improved understanding through enhanced data-analytics capability. The strategy aims to improve Australian Government agencies’ understanding of, and capability in, big data analytics in order to enhance existing services, deliver new services and provide better policy advice, while incorporating best practice privacy protection and leveraging existing ICT investments. The strategy promotes a number of broad-reaching outcomes, including better policy development, collaboration with industry and academia, and enhancing open data.

A second document, the Science for Policy: Mapping Australian Government Investments and Institutions discussion (2013) paper, identified the existing science advisory mechanisms within the Australian Government that support the creation and delivery of science for policy. The discussion paper was commissioned from the HC Coombs Policy Forum, at the Australian National University, and published in e-format in July 2013.

Both documents were presented to the Secretaries Board—an Australian public service leadership group comprising the secretaries of all portfolio departments and the Australian Public Service Commissioner—on 4 September 2013. The Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet also acknowledged the value of the review. All department secretaries agreed to continue to progress the recommendations of the original report across their departments and portfolio agencies.

Contact us

For further information about the report or subsequent reviews,please email APS200-ScienceinPolicy@industry.gov.au

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