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Adelle, C. and Weiland, S. (2012) Policy Assessment. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 30(1): 25-33.
The extension of assessment from the project and programme level to the policy level was in part intended to improve its effectiveness by moving the focus of study upstream in the policy making process. This paper reflects on the state of the art in policy assessment distinguishing between three different dimensions of policy assessment, namely the concept, practices and research. It illustrates how the rapid spread of policy assessment around the world in the last few decades has led, not to one standard ‘correct’ way of conducting policy assessment, but a great deal of diversity in how and why policy assessment is practiced as well as researched and even theorised. Although the ‘text book’ concept and everyday practices of policy assessment are based on a traditional rational linear concept of policy making, policy assessment has become the latest arena for post-positivists conceptions of policy making and assessment to resurface. This paper suggests that the future agenda for both research and practices could – indeed should – attempt to straddle these two theoretical approaches.