3.1 Individual politics
When you started studying this unit you may well have had a limited knowledge and experience of evaluation. Or maybe your experience and knowledge were limited to one particular type of evaluation. Whatever your initial situation, by now you should have developed a fairly clear idea of how your own values and beliefs condition and shape your preferences for the many features of both technology evaluation, and evaluation generally. I raise this subject again because our values and beliefs are reflected in our individual politics and therefore enter into evaluation and assessment at any stage of the process. One result can be that while the recipients of an evaluation believe it to be objective and unbiased, the conduct and outcome of the evaluation have actually been skewed in a particular way to arrive at a position that sits comfortably with an evaluator’s individual politics. As Bamberger et al. (2006) note, if unchecked this process can move into the realms of advocacy.
In the context of technology evaluation this is a trend that I think is quite often noticeable. It often seems, for example, that the evaluators of nuclear technologies are advocates before they are evaluators. Maybe this is simply a reflection of the type of ‘experts’ chosen to evaluate that particular technology. That said, the question remains: ‘Is advocacy an improper intrusion of the evaluator’s individual values?’ (Bamberger et al., 2006, p. 121). Activity 9 will involve you in seeking an answer to this highly pertinent question.
Activity 9 Advocacy or evaluation?
Take some time to think through whether you believe it is appropriate for evaluators to take on the role of advocates for a particular technological development or technology based project or policy. Does the answer vary depending on the type of development and context? If an evaluator is an advocate does this undermine the credibility of the evaluation and why?
Once you have come to a view you may wish to use the Comments section below to share your thoughts. Where possible you should draw on real examples to support your conclusions.