He begins by unpacking the term "evidence" and suggests that evidence is political, in the sense that the regulatory practices and structure of power that are put in place develop criteria that prescribes what is or counts as "evidence". Science, therefore, from this point of view is not a neutral apparatus but is connected to managerialism, marketing, and measurement.
With recent movements toward decolonization and indigenization of knowledge, science is broadening to include other forms of "knowledge". The problem is that "No Child Left Behind", EQAO, etc. now dominate what evidence is required to measure what is and is not knowledge or progress. He discusses a range of tensions and politics both within the research community and more broadly to issues related to external pressures on the research community.
He provocatively suggests that we (i.e. researchers, educators, policy makers, etc.) rethink the way in which we use the word "data". Data carries with it the lingering effect of positivism. As an alternative, he suggests replacing the term data with "empirical material". He argues that the term "empirical material" locates the data, or single piece of datum, under consideration in the world of experience. He suggests that scholarship should now focus on representation.
The debate within the field around "mixed methods" has now shifted to the notion of "situated identities" (LGBT people, indigenous, minority women, etc.) as informing discourses and conflicts with larger paradigms. Within each of these situated identities are variances and perspectives. Also critical analytic interrogation is an important component of how we "do" traditional enquiry, including quantitative inquiry.
The larger point in all of his presentation is that there is a challenge within education, universities, and all manner of social sciences, to comply with the discourses of audit and what the managerial funding bodies deem to be essential and important.
A conference on this very subject is going to be held at the University of Regina on July 23 - 25th. It should be of interest for those working in this area.
Public Engagement and politics of evidence