Tieberghien, Julie Lost in translation

Lost in translation? Towards a more realistic understanding of the research –
policy interface in the drug field.
The potential for scientific knowledge to change and improve the world has been a theme
within debates since the period of the Enlightenment. Thus there is nothing entirely new
in the growing pressure to base a policy on scientific knowledge in order to eliminate bias
and decisions taken on arbitrary grounds. The term ‘evidence-based’ policy has become
part of the lexicon of academics and policy makers within different fields such as
medicine, social work, public health, etc. The notion ‘evidence-based’ drug policy came
also apparent during the 1990s. The movement to late modernity has changed the
experience of drug use and welfare and the political meaning of both. Drug use is
ubiquitous throughout the world and it became a subject of political debate (South,
1999). At that time, drug research also became ‘internationalised’. The European
Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the Pompidou Group
have played an important role in initiating the scientific – policy debate. Both institutes
were formed to identify gaps in knowledge in order to strengthen the research base for
promoting ‘evidence-based’ drug policy (Stimson & Judd in Stimson, 1997; Hartnoll,
2004). But despite its popular appeal, this approach faces some fundamental pitfalls. In
critically addressing these challenges, we will discuss theories of knowledge utilization
and policy processes in order to establish a more realistic understanding of the researchpolicy interface in the drug field and to address the methodological and conceptual
pitfalls that have affected many empirical studies on the research – policy interface in the
past. These theoretical and empirical reflections provide the basis for the conceptual and
methodological framework of our research about how scientific research is used in the
drug policy making process in Belgium.
Contact details:
Julie Tieberghien
Institute for Social Drug research (ISD)
Universiteitstraat 4
9000 Gent
Email address: [email protected]