Skip to main content

Research Areas

K4U research is organised into two broad interacting streams: Building social policies and Deliberating policy.

Unlike many projects in analytic philosophy, and in accord with its Popperian emphasis on ensuring concrete content for its general philosophical concepts and claims, K4U involves not only the kind of theoretical and conceptual development, analysis and rigorous interrogation characteristic of the philosophy of science, but, through six case studies, it also involves hands-on primary research on real policy problems. The conceptual analyses create a better understanding of how to build and deliberate social policies, which is evaluated in areas of real policy concern, and vice versa. This underwrites our confidence that breakthroughs on the conceptual side will contribute to improvements for real societal problems and that K4U’s theoretical results will meet a high standard of warrant, tested both analytically and empirically. K4U will concentrate on the following stages in the policy process:

  • Asking the right questions. (Formulating the problem; “operationalizing” target outcomes. This builds on my work on concept warrant and social science measurement [cf Cartwright & Bradburn 2011]).
  • Assembling policy proposals. (Based on its work on causal modelling, K4U will offer practicable guidance on how to identify what is going wrong and how to effect change).
  • Collecting the right evidence. (K4U will outline kinds of evidence needed for reliable prediction of policy outcomes in local contexts).
  • Putting together what we know. (K4U will develop innovative methods for dealing with heterogeneous information--see Building social policies).
  • Deciding what to do. (Negotiating costs, benefits, probability of success, side effects, structural repercussions, and political, moral and cultural acceptability of policy proposals).
  • Knowing if you are successful. (Using recent philosophical research on causal mechanisms to tell if a policy has delivered sustainable, long term success, [cf Cartwright 2007, Russo & Williamson 2007]).