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The science-policy interface in policy theories: A comparative case study of street level policing for illicit drugs

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Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

Australian Research Council - Discovery Project DP140100219

Project Members: 
image - Kari Lancaster Low Res 2017
Associate Professor Kari Lancaster
Scientia Associate Professor
Project Main Description: 

This study will shed light on how policy gets formed by police, and what influences the policy formulation process. Two policy case studies: drug detection dogs and police attendance at drug overdose, will be used to test two very prominent policy process theories: Kingdon’s Multiple Streams and Sabatier’s Advocacy Coalition Framework. Examination of these policy process theories in the context of policing of illicit drugs has the potential to provide significant new insights about the interface of science and policy, such that more effective drug policies become possible.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Professor Robert Hoppe
University of Twente, Netherlands

Through a comparative case study approach, this project will:
  1. assess the scientific merit of the two competing policy process theories (across the two case studies); 
  2. examine their applicability to the unique policing context; and 
  3. study the ways in which each theory can account for the interface between science and policy. 
Design and Method: 
Documents describing the events and activities around the policy developments for the two case studies will be reviewed. Interviews will be conducted with experts who were involved in the two case studies. From the documentary review and expert interviews, we will develop a narrative that conforms to each of the two policy theories. These narratives (one for Kingdon’s Multiple Streams and one for Sabatier’s Advocacy Coalition framework) will then be analysed for congruence, explanatory power, and face validity with police, and the relationship between science and policy teased out.

This project is nearing completion, pending final publications to arise.



Lancaster, K. Ritter, A. Hughes, C. & Hoppe, R. (2016) A critical examination of the introduction of drug detection dogs for policing of illicit drugs in New South Wales, Australia using Kingdon's 'multiple streams' heuristic. Evidence and Policy, 13(4), 583-603. DOI: 10.1332/174426416X14683497019265

Hughes, C., Ritter, A., Lancaster, K. & Hoppe, R. (2017) Understanding policy persistence - the case of police drug detection dog policy in NSW, Australia. International Journal of Drug Policy, 44, 58-68 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.03.007

Lancaster, K., Hughes, C. & Ritter, A. (2016) “Drug dogs unleashed”: An historical and political account of drug detection dogs for street-level policing of illicit drugs in New South Wales, Australia" Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology,  50(3) 360–378. DOI: 10.1177/0004865816642826

Ritter, A., & Lancaster K. (forthcoming). Chapter 22: Kingdon’s multiple streams: a review. In Handbook of the Policy process. London: Edward Elgar

Ritter, A., & Lancaster, K. (2013) Illicit drugs, policing and the evidence-based policy paradigm, Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 9(4), 457-472. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/174426413X662662

Ritter, A., Hughes, C., Lancaster, K. & Hoppe R. Drug detection dogs seen through the Advocacy Coalition Framework and Multiple Streams policy theories. Addiction


Conference papers/presentations:

Ritter, A. Drug detection dogs seen through the eyes of the Advocacy Coalition Framework compared to Multiple Streams: the science-policy interface. ISSDP Conference, May 2017

Lancaster, K. (2016, August) Drug dogs unleashed: policy processes, politics and ‘evidence-based drug policy’. Invited guest lecture at the School of Social Sciences, UNSW, 8 August, Sydney.

Lancaster, K. (2016, April) Examining the introduction of drug detection dogs for street-level policing of drugs in NSW. Invited guest lecture at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW, 18 April, Sydney.

Lancaster, K., Ritter, A., Hughes, C. & Hoppe, R. (2015, November) ‘An idea whose time has come?’ Examining the introduction of drug detection dogs for street-level policing of drugs in NSW. Paper presented at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Seminar Series, 12 November, Sydney.

Hughes, C. (2016, February). Drug laws, drug law enforcement and drug law reform in Australia: Policy dilemmas and real-world impacts, Invited RAND DPRC Seminar, 23 February, Santa Monica, USA.


Other outputs:

Ritter, A. What keeps me up at night – illicit drug policy. Unsomnia @ UNSW, 1st December, 2016

Ritter, A. Facilitator NSW Harm Minimisation Summit, August, 2016

Lancaster, K. Invited delegate at the NSW Roundtable to explore better approaches to addressing drug related harms (led by Senator Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Australian Greens, and David Shoebridge NSW Greens MLC), Parliament of New South Wales, 19 February 2016Hughes, C. Policy briefing to the Commonwealth Department of Health. Approaches to Policing and Safety at Music Festivals: Do Police Dogs Help? Canberra, 13 December 2016.

Hughes, C. Policy briefing to the City of Sydney, NSW Health and NSW Police exploring better approaches to managing the NSW night-time economy – including the police use of drug detection dogs, Sydney, 29 November 2017.

Media release on NSW Greens Bill to end use of Sniffer Dogs without a warrant – 20 April 2016.


This project will create new knowledge in relation to:
  • The scientific merit of two competing policy theoretical frameworks, and contribute amendments and improvements to the theories;
  • New insights into how well such theories apply to street-level policing
  • Comprehensive timelines and a narrative description of two case studies – of use to police and policy researchers 
  • Better understanding of the dynamic relationship between science and policy 
Project Research Area: 
Project Status: