Social construction and the evidence-based drug policy endeavour

Date Commenced:
March 2013
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

Australian Postgraduate Award

image - Lancaster Phd Speech Bubbles Resized
Project Members
image - Kari Lancaster Low Res 2017
Senior Research Fellow
Ph +61 2 9385 6799
Project Main Description

‘Evidence-based policy’ has become the catch-cry of the drug policy field. A growing literature has been dedicated to realising the goal of ‘evidence-based’ drug policy: to maximise the use of quality research to inform decision-making and help answer the question of ‘what works.’ The aim of this project was to problematise the premise of the ‘evidence-based policy’ paradigm and, by interrogating underlying taken-for-granted assumptions, consider the implications and effects of this dominant mode of governance for drug policy.


This project will explore the following research questions:

  • What is the nature of ‘evidence’ and how is policy knowledge validated within drug policy processes?
  • How do a multiplicity of knowledge(s) and voices come to bear on drug policy processes?
  • To what extent does the construction and representation of drug policy problems affect the choice of and privilege given to different types of knowledge and voices in drug policy processes (and to what extent does this privileging in turn contribute to the construction and representation of drug policy problems)?
Design and Method

An empirical multiple-case study design with multiple qualitative data analysis methods will be utilized to compare the development of three drug policy issues (including opioid overdose prevention and management strategy, ‘New Recovery’ and drug treatment, and approaches to extend distribution of injecting equipment through peer networks). This research design allows for extensive analysis of drug policy development processes within individual cases, as well as across cases. The multiple-case study approach will follow a replication logic, whereby conclusions will be drawn from each individual case and then subsequently compared and analysed across the other cases.


Data collection and analysis is underway.

  1. Lancaster, K. (2014) Social construction and the evidence-based drug policy endeavour, International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(5), 948–951.
  2. Lancaster, K. & Ritter, A. (2014) Making change happen: a case study of the successful establishment of a peer-administered naloxone program in one Australian jurisdiction, International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(5), 985–991.
Project Supporters

Australian Postgraduate Award


By unpicking the values and assumptions which underlie drug policy processes, how problems are constructed and represented, and the ways in which different voices and knowledge(s) come to bear on that process, we may begin to see avenues for reform which may not at present seem obvious.            

Project Collaborators: External

Professor Carla Treloar
Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW

Project Research Area
Project Status
Date Commenced
March 2013

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