Ben Verboom

Study program:
DPhil Social Intervention
Current affiliation:
University of Oxford

Ben Verboom (social intervention, University of Oxford) is seeking to better understand and encourage the use of science in global health policymaking by Canadian and international institutions.

 Doctoral research

The Politics and Processes of Evidence-Based Policymaking: A Research Synthesis and Case Study in West Africa

Ben’s doctoral research examines the complex relationship between the research evidence produced by university academics and think tanks, on the one hand, and policymaking processes in public health and health systems, on the other: Why is a “disconnect” so commonly observed between what we “know” from research and what we “do” through our public policy decisions? When policy actors make use of insights from research, what are the processes through which research evidence influences their decisions? What are the prospects and possibilities for the so-called ideal of “evidence-based” policymaking, and is this ideal even desirable and consistent with democratic norms? How might we better design our (national and supranational) governance systems so that policy processes lend themselves to more “informed” action without compromising sovereignty and democratic legitimacy?

In his doctoral work, Ben aims to problematize the current body of work on research-to-policy processes in the health field, and to re-examine that literature through the lenses of complex systems and critical realist research methodology. Following an in-depth systematic review and research synthesis, he will conduct an explanatory case study of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), a regional health governance body with the explicit mandate to support and harmonize the policies of West Africa’s 15 national ministries of health and to strengthen the health research capacity of its member states.



Ben Verboom is currently pursuing his DPhil in social intervention at the University of Oxford's Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention. In his doctoral work he is examining the role of research evidence in health policy processes, with a particular focus on regional governance and national health policy for maternal and child health in West Africa. Ben's other research interests include the role of corporate and commercial interests in influencing public knowledge on health issues and public health policymaking, and the links between knowledge and power in policy processes, especially in so-called “aid-recipient” countries. He is also interested in developing methodological approaches for synthesizing research knowledge in the social sciences, and in exploring the potential contribution of complexity theory to the study of social and political phenomena.

A survivor of suicide loss, Ben has been involved in the cause of suicide prevention and stigma reduction for several years. In 2009, he established and led a Canada-wide campaign to raise awareness about suicide and to tackle its associated stigma. Inspired by his late father's passion for cycling, he spent a summer cycling across Canada, from St. John's to Victoria, sharing his story and fostering public dialogue on suicide and mental illness. Ben has also worked on community-based HIV prevention and health promotion projects with civil society organizations in Namibia and Tanzania.

A physical educator and personal trainer in a past life, Ben has an intense passion for sport and physical activity. He regularly sets aside time for running and cycling, and he is a member of the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club. One of Ben’s biggest recent thrills was his chance to serve as a torchbearer in advance of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Ben holds a bachelor of physical and health education degree from the University of Toronto and a master of science degree from the University of Oxford.