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Robustness, evidence, and uncertainty: an exploration of policy applications of robustness analysis

Wüthrich, Nicolas (2017) Robustness, evidence, and uncertainty: an exploration of policy applications of robustness analysis. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.trg3t8z1e6g6

Abstract

Policy-makers face an uncertain world. One way of getting a handle on decision-making in such an environment is to rely on evidence. Despite the recent increase in post-fact figures in politics, evidence-based policymaking takes centre stage in policy-setting institutions. Often, however, policy-makers face large volumes of evidence from different sources. Robustness analysis can, prima facie, handle this evidential diversity. Roughly, a hypothesis is supported by robust evidence if the different evidential sources (such as observations or model results) are in agreement. In this thesis, I strengthen the case for the use of robustness analysis in evidence-based policymaking by answering open research questions about this inference technique. First, I argue that existing taxonomies miss a fruitful category of robustness reasoning, that is predictive stability. Second, I claim that derivational robustness analysis – the investigation of whether the results of different models are in agreement – can yield interesting insights even if not the entire relevant model space is covered by available models or if the model results are only partially in agreement. Third, I claim that expert knowledge is necessary to address questions that arise when one applies measurement robustness analysis – the investigation into whether multiple means of measurement yield the same result. Finally, I argue that, in situations where evidence from different measurements is not in agreement, it can be advisable to no longer take all of the evidence into account. This can be done in a rationally defensible way by choosing the most adequate theory or model underlying parts of the evidence set. I discuss examples from climate, medical, and economic policy-making to establish my claims.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Nicolas Wüthrich
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Frigg, Roman
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3617

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