Although there is no agreed-upon definition of public policy, some of the basic elements affecting public policies are reasonably clear. These include the policy objectives being sought, the trade-offs among policy objectives, the limited range of policy choices open to governments (given the limits of the availability of human and financial resources, the administrative capacity of governments, and prevailing public attitudes), the likely impacts of pursuing various practical policy options, and the processes by which public choices are made. All of these elements are within the scope of the Prize.
In making its selection, the jury is guided by three broad criteria:
- The importance of the subject;
- The soundness and originality of the analysis in terms of identifying and defining the issues in question and presenting authoritative analysis and evidence to illuminate the issues and support the conclusions reached;
- A well-written, well-presented book that can be read and understood not only by experts, but also by interested and informed laymen.
In general, the jury places a premium on analysis and a weighing of alternatives. This may take many forms, e.g. historical analysis that sheds light on contemporary issues and policy, cross-country and cross-regional comparisons, and straightforward comparisons of contemporary policy options in a specific area. Books that present simple historical descriptions or case studies that fail to shed much new light on public policy, past or present, are unlikely to be selected. Nor are books whose focus is judged to be primarily advocacy or special pleading.
Each title submitted for consideration will be judged by a jury made up of five members who bring varied backgrounds and areas of expertise to the task. In early April a shortlist will be announced. The winner and runners-up will be announced at an awards ceremony in May.