Intended for healthcare professionals


The pursuit of ignorance

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 15 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1446
  1. K E Smith, reader1,
  2. J Collin, professor1,
  3. B Hawkins, lecturer2,
  4. S Hilton, deputy director3,
  5. L Moore,, director3
  1. 1Global Public Health Unit, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to: K E Smith Katherine.smith{at}

The UK’s anti-lobbying clause will jeopardise evidence informed policy making

“There is nothing a government hates more than to be well informed; for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult.”1

John Maynard Keynes

Despite Keynes’s belief that evidence makes government decisions harder, successive UK governments have committed to adopting policies informed by evidence. UK academics now have explicit incentives to demonstrate the impact of their research beyond academia. Surprisingly, however, the UK Cabinet Office has introduced a clause that could limit researchers’ engagement in policy debates.2

The new clause, for insertion into all grant agreements, was announced by Cabinet Office minister, Matthew Hancock. It prohibits the use of government funds for “activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action.”3 This seems to conflict with the pursuit of public health goals, which often require ensuring policy makers are aware of the implications of research.

The tension may be inadvertent on the part of the government, but at the very least it seems …

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