The Reliability of Evidence in Evidence-Based Legislation

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Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis




As evidence-based legislation develops, and as technology puts more information at our fingertips, there should be a better understanding of what exactly constitutes reliable evidence. Robert and Ann Seidman devoted their professional careers to developing the evidence-based Institutional Legislative Theory and Methodology and teaching it to legislative drafters around the world. Although ILTAM was firmly grounded in – and driven by – evidence, the question becomes what evidence is reliable and a worthy input for the methodology. Further, how can the drafter avoid the misuses of evidence such as confirmation bias and naïve beliefs? We aim to give a guide for using evidence by offering examples of evidence-based legislation in practice and through a proposed hierarchy of evidence from most to least reliable:

      1. Experiments within the jurisdiction / lessons from other jurisdictions.

      2. Information on a topic or issue that was formally requested by the legislature or produced to the legislature under oath or under the penalties of perjury.

      3. Studies / information provided by a government agency.

      4. Expert or scientific studies.

      5. Economic or mathematical models and statistics.

      6. Information provided by special interests.

      7. Stories, apocrypha and uncorroborated tales.

      We hope that this hierarchy provides a starting point for discussion to refine and improve evidence-based legislation.

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