The UK Parliament Select Committee’s Evidence Checks invite citizens to scrutinise the evidence which underpins Government policy in specific areas, to determine how robust that evidence is, and to highlight where the gaps are.

Originally driven by the Science & Technology Committee, Evidence Checks have also since been undertaken by Select Committees on Education (in 2014/15), Health (2016), and Women and Equalities (2016, called a Fact Check).

Committees use simple web forum technology; the forum simply acts as a basic way of capturing written submissions that are published instantly.

Building on past experiences, the engagement team faces the challenge of either receiving too little engagement, or advertising too broadly and in turn being overwhelmed by large numbers of low quality contributions.

They argue that Evidence Checks work best when focused on tight policy issues, and when Committees clearly define the terms of the debate, providing specific terms, definitions or statistics when conducting their outreach on Twitter.

Credit: Tom Shane, UK Parliament

The Fact Check run by the Women and Equalities Committee also benefited from targeting specific organisations and communities on Twitter who were known to have interest, expertise and/or lived experience in the relevant areas.

Specific hashtags were used to build a community and an informed debate around the topic (see image).

The Committee then split the bill into sections and asked for contributions, receiving a handful of high quality contributions on each.

Much of it was incorporated into the subsequent ministerial briefing, and two contributions from the Fact Check led to a change in the Government’s position on the issue.