Information collection is the key to many and better policies (e.g. evidencebased policy) (Nutley et al. 2007) and, as Hood (1986) pointed out, many implementation instruments exist to collect information and can contribute to enhanced ‘evidence-based’ policy-making.. This extends to the use of licensing provisions in which information may be collected before or after a licence is granted, but can also involve the use of research and generation of new policy-relevant knowledge.
Judicial inquiries and executive commissions
One fairly common and high-profile means by which governments collect information is the judicial inquiry or executive commission. These exist on a spectrum depending on their relationship to government agencies and according to their functions. Some inquiries and task forces are largely internal discussed in Chapter 5 above in the context of procedural organizational tools.
Other kinds of commissions, however, are designed primarily to collect information (Sulzeabu-Kenan 2010; Rowe and McAllister 2006). Many judicial inquiries fall into this category and have a great deal of autonomy from governments. They are a common feature of legal modes of governance. Presidential and royal commissions are independent and autonomous but still depend on government for budgets and resources. All of these devices can be used to summarize existing knowledge or generate new data on a subject (Chapman 1973; Bulmer 1981; Sheriff 1983; Clark and Majone 1985; d’Ombrain 1997; Elliott and McGuinness 2001; Montpetit 2003; 2008; Salter 2003; Prasser 2006).
National statistical agencies
Another such tool is the use of statistical agencies which are specifically tasked with collecting data on a wide variety of social activities of individuals, groups and firms. These typically operate using internationally recognized standards for classifying these activities and may rely more or less heavily on voluntary disclosure of information. These agencies, or those like them, may conduct surveys on specialized topics and/or periodic censuses of national or sub-national populations. This information is often used to determine such factors as the level of per capita grants transferred between governments, or the number and types of hospitals and medical facilities which should be built and where these, and other public institutions like schools and offices, should be located. They are expensive to establish and maintain but once in operation can be used to collect information on many subjects at relatively low cost.
Surveys and polling
In many countries governments are now the largest purchasers of surveys (Hastak et al. 2001) and many government agencies now undertake surveys on a regular basis, both as environmental scans in order to try to anticipate issues, but also in order to determine public opinion on agency performance (Rothmayr and Hardmeier 2002; Page 2006).