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Concept: Political science


Evidence-based policy ensures that the best interventions are effectively implemented. Integrating rigorous, relevant science into policy is therefore essential. Barriers include the evidence not being there; lack of demand by policymakers; academics not producing rigorous, relevant papers within the timeframe of the policy cycle. This piece addresses the last problem. Academics underestimate the speed of the policy process, and publish excellent papers after a policy decision rather than good ones before it. To be useful in policy, papers must be at least as rigorous about reporting their methods as for other academic uses. Papers which are as simple as possible (but no simpler) are most likely to be taken up in policy. Most policy questions have many scientific questions, from different disciplines, within them. The accurate synthesis of existing information is the most important single offering by academics to the policy process. Since policymakers are making economic decisions, economic analysis is central, as are the qualitative social sciences. Models should, wherever possible, allow policymakers to vary assumptions. Objective, rigorous, original studies from multiple disciplines relevant to a policy question need to be synthesized before being incorporated into policy.

Concepts: Economics, Science, Decision theory, Policy, Implementation, Social sciences, Political science, Scholarly method


Does naturalization cause better political integration of immigrants into the host society? Despite heated debates about citizenship policy, there exists almost no evidence that isolates the independent effect of naturalization from the nonrandom selection into naturalization. We provide new evidence from a natural experiment in Switzerland, where some municipalities used referendums as the mechanism to decide naturalization requests. Balance checks suggest that for close naturalization referendums, which are decided by just a few votes, the naturalization decision is as good as random, so that narrowly rejected and narrowly approved immigrant applicants are similar on all confounding characteristics. This allows us to remove selection effects and obtain unbiased estimates of the long-term impacts of citizenship. Our study shows that for the immigrants who faced close referendums, naturalization considerably improved their political integration, including increases in formal political participation, political knowledge, and political efficacy.

Concepts: Causality, Effectiveness, Law, Experiment, Metaphysics, France, Refugee, Political science


BACKGROUND: Numerous policies have been proposed to address the public health problem of obesity, resulting in a policy cacophony. The noise of so many policy options renders it difficult for policymakers to determine which policies warrant implementation. This has resulted in calls for more and better evidence to support obesity policy. However, it is not clear that evidence is the solution. This paper argues that to address the policy cacophony it is necessary to rethink the problem of obesity, and more specifically, how the problem of obesity is framed. This paper argues that the frame “obesity” be replaced by the frame “caloric overconsumption”, concluding that the frame caloric overconsumption can overcome the obesity policy cacophony. DISCUSSION: Frames are important because they influence public policy. Understood as packages that define issues, frames influence how best to approach a problem. Consequently, debates over public policy are considered battles over framing, with small shifts in how an issue is framed resulting in significant changes to the policy environment. This paper presents a rationale for reframing the problem of obesity as caloric overconsumption. The frame “obesity” contributes to the policy cacophony by including policies aimed at both energy output and energy input. However, research increasingly demonstrates that energy input is the primary cause of obesity, and that increases in energy input are largely attributable to the food environment. By focusing on policies that aim to prevent increases in energy input, the frame caloric overconsumption will reduce the noise of the obesity policy cacophony. While the proposed frame will face some challenges, particularly industry opposition, policies aimed at preventing caloric overconsumption have a clearer focus, and can be more politically palatable if caloric overconsumption is seen as an involuntary risk resulting from the food environment.

Concepts: Thermodynamics, Policy, Implementation, Government, Political science, Frame, Public policy, Policy analysis


Existing research on the extensive Chinese censorship organization uses observational methods with well-known limitations. We conducted the first large-scale experimental study of censorship by creating accounts on numerous social media sites, randomly submitting different texts, and observing from a worldwide network of computers which texts were censored and which were not. We also supplemented interviews with confidential sources by creating our own social media site, contracting with Chinese firms to install the same censoring technologies as existing sites, and–with their software, documentation, and even customer support–reverse-engineering how it all works. Our results offer rigorous support for the recent hypothesis that criticisms of the state, its leaders, and their policies are published, whereas posts about real-world events with collective action potential are censored.

Concepts: Scientific method, Sociology, Observation, People's Republic of China, Philosophy of science, Hypothesis, Political science, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989


When the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda begins on September 25, the attainment of universal health coverage (UHC) is expected to garner substantial attention. Bolstered by increasing evidence that UHC improves health outcomes,(1) countries are seeking to build health-related goals around the concept of health care for all. Yet many lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have not created UHC systems (see map). How can the global community translate vision into policy, especially in the face of complicated politics? To elucidate some of the political dynamics involved, we developed a conceptual model describing sociopolitical factors . . .

Concepts: Health care, Education, Politics, Law, United Nations, Political philosophy, Political science, Human Development Index


Drug policy, whether for legal or illegal substances, is a controversial field that encompasses many complex issues. Policies can have effects on a myriad of outcomes and stakeholders differ in the outcomes they consider and value, while relevant knowledge on policy effects is dispersed across multiple research disciplines making integrated judgements difficult.

Concepts: Scientific method, Drug, Decision theory, Heroin, Hemp, Political science, Illegal drug trade, Prohibition


Over human evolutionary history, upper-body strength has been a major component of fighting ability. Evolutionary models of animal conflict predict that actors with greater fighting ability will more actively attempt to acquire or defend resources than less formidable contestants will. Here, we applied these models to political decision making about redistribution of income and wealth among modern humans. In studies conducted in Argentina, Denmark, and the United States, men with greater upper-body strength more strongly endorsed the self-beneficial position: Among men of lower socioeconomic status (SES), strength predicted increased support for redistribution; among men of higher SES, strength predicted increased opposition to redistribution. Because personal upper-body strength is irrelevant to payoffs from economic policies in modern mass democracies, the continuing role of strength suggests that modern political decision making is shaped by an evolved psychology designed for small-scale groups.

Concepts: Human, Evolution, United States, Socioeconomic status, Political philosophy, Political science, Human evolution, Welfare state


Research has shown that tobacco control policies have helped produce the dramatic decline in use over the decades following the 1964 surgeon general’s report. However, prevalence rates have stagnated during the past two decades in the US, even with large tobacco taxes and expansions of clean air laws. The observed differences in tobacco control policy effectiveness and why policies do not help all smokers are largely unexplained.

Concepts: At-large, Political science


People self-assess their relative ability when making career choices. Thus, confidence in their own abilities is likely an important factor for selection into various career paths. In a sample of 711 first-year students we examine whether there are systematic differences in confidence levels across fields of study. We find that our experimental confidence measures significantly vary between fields of study: While students in business related academic disciplines (Political Science, Law, Economics, and Business Administration) exhibit the highest confidence levels, students of Humanities range at the other end of the scale. This may have important implications for subsequent earnings and professions students select themselves in.

Concepts: Education, Economics, Law, Academia, Social sciences, Political science, Humanities, Natural science


The UK National Health Service has a long history of recruiting overseas nurses to meet nursing shortages in the UK. However, recruitment patterns regularly fluctuate in response to political and economic changes. Typically, the UK government gives little consideration of how these unstable recruitment practices affect overseas nurses. In this article, we present findings from two independent research studies from Malawi and Nepal, which aimed to examine how overseas nurses encountered and overcame the challenges linked to recent recruitment and migration restrictions. We show how current UK immigration policy has had a negative impact on overseas nurses' lives. It has led them to explore alternative entry routes into the UK, affecting both the quality of their working lives and their future decisions about whether to stay or return to their home country. We conclude that the shifting forces of nursing workforce demand and supply, leading to abrupt policy changes, have significant implications on overseas nurses' lives, and can leave nurses ‘trapped’ in the UK. We make recommendations for UK policy-makers to work with key stakeholders in nurse-sending countries to minimize the negative consequences of unstable nurse recruitment, and we highlight the benefits of promoting circular migration.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Nursing, Nurse, Supply and demand, Political science, Nursing shortage, British Empire, Immigration to the United Kingdom since 1922