Seminario del Dpto. de Lógica, Historia y Filosofía de la ciencia (UNED)

JUEVES 07 DE MAYO, 12.00 (Sala 06 de Filosofía, UNED)

Attilia Ruzzene (Erasmus University Rotterdam)"What role for case studies in policy making?"

Although a persistent element of the scientific landscape, case studies have long been regarded as “unfit” to the purposes of science not only by philosophers of science, but also by those scientists who make extensive use of case-study research in their daily work. This widely shared belief had its own raison d'être in a view of science as mainly directed to provide explanations in the form of empirical generalizations. However, science started lately to be seen as a much less homogeneous enterprise aimed at addressing a plurality of purposes. This change of perspective naturally leads to a revision of traditional ideas about the role of case studies in the scientific practice broadly understood. This turn has especially interesting implications for the social sciences. In particular, since an arguably desirable feature of the social scientific practice is its responsiveness to the demand of policy makers, a significant question to ask is what function case studies can perform in the process that leads to the formulation of social policies.  
In this paper, I suggest that the answer to this question depends on the model of evidence for policy-making one presupposes. In the contemporary debate in philosophy of science, two alternative models are on offer. First is the hierarchical model of evidence that originated in the bio-medical sciences. This model ranks evidence according to its degree of validity and typically relegates case studies to the bottom of the hierarchy. Prey to a broad range of criticisms, this model seems inadequate when employed for the formulation of social policies. The alternative approach rebuts the hierarchical view and treats alternative strands of evidence as complementary. I shall call it functional as it sees policy-making as assembling strands of evidence that have a different epistemic function in reaching conclusions about effective means. I argue that in this model, case studies play two crucial functions: they help formulating the policy-objective at the right level of concreteness, and, through the identification of local causal processes, outline alternative strategies for intervention.