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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities Appendix A When Do Environmental Decision Makers Use Social Science? Rebecca J. Romsdahl This appendix describes a body of literature that is relevant to understanding the conditions under which decision makers are likely to use social science information in environmentally significant decisions. The literature was identified by contacting selected researchers and searching numerous databases (AGRICOLA, BIOSIS Previews, CSA Environmental Science and Pollution Management, EconLit, Elsevier-ScienceDirect, EMBASE, InfoTrac OneFile, National Technical Information Service, ProQuest General Reference, HtmlResAnchor PsycINFO, Public Affairs Information Service [PAIS International], Social Sciences Citation Index, Sociological Abstracts) using combinations of the following topics: environmental, decision making, policy making, social science, knowledge utilization, and information utilization. The search was not exhaustive, but it is presented as representative of the field.1 This appendix characterizes the literature, lists some of the reoccurring conclusions found in the studies, and concludes with an annotated bibliography containing 54 citations. The annotations summarize the following questions for each article: What is the empirical basis, if any? What is the social science and environmental domain? Who are the decision makers involved? What are the conclusions, if any, on how social science was/is/ would be used? Are there recommendations or any other relevant pieces of information?
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities Very few of the studies directly address the use of social science information in environmental decision making. The majority are from fields of social policy (e.g., education, health), but a few provide examples from other fields. One study (Rosen, 1977) reviews literature on the use of social science in judicial policy making; this study provides interesting but limited insight in this area of decision making. Another limited study (Deshpande, 1981) addresses the use of social science research in business decisions. Given the focus of this bibliography on the utilization of social science, no attempt was made to summarize studies on the use of natural science in decision making; however, one illustrative study is included (Powell, 1999). This study addresses the use of natural science information, in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that is of direct relevance to regulatory decision making. In addition, although it is recognized that claims are often made about the misuse of scientific information in government decision making, the time frame of this review precluded a search for literature to examine such claims in regard to social science information. Most of the literature in this bibliography comes from the study of “knowledge utilization,” a popular research area in the 1970s and early 1980s. Interest in this field of research seems to rise and fall periodically and it has been less active in recent years; however, as this panel study shows, questions about social science utilization persist and recent studies do build on and advance earlier work. SOCIAL SCIENCE UTILIZATION IN GOVERNMENT DECISION MAKING The most recent studies in this field (Landry, Amara, and Lamari, 2001; Landry, Lamari, and Amara, 2003) are significant for their broad examination of decision-making offices, including social and environmental, and their critique of the knowledge utilization literature. In their analyses, Landry et al. (2001, 2003) consider organizational and communication factors and find that both influence utilization. For example, they highlight the importance of policy domain: university research reached its highest levels of utilization in the fields of education and information technology (Landry et al., 2003). Many of the early studies on knowledge utilization focus on federal government decision makers primarily in areas of social policy. The studies reviewed here present some useful insights into how government decision makers use social science information. Among these are practical typologies of social science roles in decision-making processes. It is useful for the present purpose to highlight two broad categories:
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities the conceptual or enlightenment role—social science providing a broad information base for decisions (Caplan, Morrison, and Stambaugh, 1975; Dunn, 1983; Nelson, Roberts, Maederer, Wertheimer, and Johnson, 1987; Oh, 1996a; Oh and Rich, 1996; Patton et al., 1977; Pollard, 1987; Weiss, 1977, 1979; Weiss and Bucuvalas, 1977, 1980; Wilensky, 1997) the instrumental role—information put to use for specific decisions or requested by decision makers for specific projects (Deshpande, 1981; Knorr, 1977; Oh, 1996b; Weiss, 1979) The literature also identifies other roles, including justifying or legitimating decisions already reached (Caplan et al., 1975; Knorr, 1977; Oh, 1996b; Scott and Shore, 1979; Weiss, 1979) and serving as a substitute for or justification for postponing actual decisions (Knorr, 1977; Oh, 1996b; Scott and Shore, 1979; Weiss, 1979). Several studies address how information comes to be utilized in these roles by exploring two major competing hypotheses (Greenberg and Mandell, 1991; Majchrzak, 1986; Oh, 1996a, 1996b, Oh and Rich, 1996; Rich, 2001). One hypothesis focuses on the characteristics of the information: if the information is “relevant, timely, and comprehensible, it will be used” (Majchrzak, 1986). The other focuses on organizational or bureaucratic factors, suggesting, for instance, that information will be used “when the rewards and incentives of the organizational structure encourage its use” (Majchrzak, 1986) or when the information is consistent with the ideology and interests of the organization and/or its members (Weiss, 1983). Other studies identify additional characteristics of the most frequently utilized information: it is in the form of social statistics (Caplan, 1976) it comes from internal agency sources (Caplan et al., 1975; Nelson et al., 1987; Oh, 1996a, 1997; Oh and Rich, 1996) it supports decisions that have been made on other grounds (Knorr, 1977; Oh, 1996b; Scott and Shore, 1979) it is perceived to support the decision-maker’s perception of the agency’s best interests (Oh, 1996a) it provides means to improve the sponsoring agencies’ bureaucratic efficiency (Caplan, 1976; Scott and Shore, 1979) it was specifically requested by the decision maker (Caplan, 1976; Landry et al., 2001, 2003) In addition to reviewing these broadly based studies, the search extended to documents from U.S. government agencies responsible for natural resource management. The bibliography includes two studies that examine social science utilization by such agencies—the National Oceanic
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) under the U.S. Department of the Interior. NOAA recently published a report on the findings of its external social science review panel. Two general findings were presented: (1) “The capacity of NOAA to meet its mandates and mission is diminished by the under-representation and under-utilization of social science” and (2) “Assistant Administrators are responsive to discussing opportunities for an enhanced role for social science within their line offices” (NOAA, 2003). The report also compares NOAA to several other regulatory environmental agencies and finds it lacking. “The line office budgets for social science research, education and staffing do not seem comparable to the social science budgets at other agencies with environmental assessment and stewardship responsibilities such as U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service” (NOAA, 2003). Overall, the report concludes that “the position of social science within NOAA is weak” but it presents an array of recommendations for improving the use of social science research in the agency (NOAA, 2003). Some of these recommendations include having headquarters and each line office develop social science research plans that identify goals and implementation strategies to help the agency accomplish its mission, creating a chief social scientist position in each line office, and using external experts to help educate personnel about potential contributions of social science to NOAA’s goals. The MMS report (Luton and Cluck, 2000) is an internal assessment conducted by two social scientists employed by the service. The authors find that the MMS uses social science data and analysis throughout the various phases of decisionmaking: 5-year planning, prelease and leasing activities, exploration, development, production, and decommissioning of offshore platforms. The MMS designs studies to address the data and analytical needs arising from these specific phases in order to aid in the decision-making process. The researchers also describe eight broad categories of social and economic research components that are used by the service, including issues identification, national economic analysis, and community- and individual-level analysis. For each category they identify the data needs and level of detail required in order for research in that category to support decisions at the various stages of policy making. Other federal natural resource agencies were contacted including the U.S. Forest Service, which employs social scientists but appears to be examining its use of science in a much broader sense at present; the National Park Service, which employs a visiting chief social scientist and has an ongoing national program in social science research, but application of that
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities research to decision making is described as decentralized2; the Bureau of Land Management, which employs social scientists and has a chief social scientist but has not conducted a broad assessment of its social science utilization; and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which does not appear to have a chief social scientist and has not responded to inquiries. CHALLENGES TO SOCIAL SCIENCE UTILIZATION Some of the studies present barriers to utilization that might be overcome by actions social scientists can take: failure to produce results in the form of generalized principles or politically feasible recommendations (Boggs, 1990; Caplan et al., 1975; Freudenburg, 1989; Freudenburg and Keating, 1985; Greenberg and Mandell, 1991; Jones, Fischhoff, and Lach, 1999; Scott and Shore, 1979; Useem, 1977; Weiss and Bucuvalas, 1980) lack of clarity on research questions and/or policy objectives (Corwin and Louis, 1982; Freudenburg, 1989; Fricke, 1985; Jones et al., 1999; Rich, 2001) disagreement on findings, i.e., a lack of consistent or cumulative research results on a given subject (Gismondi, 1997; Lindblom and Cohen, 1979; Weiss and Bucuvalas, 1980) Some findings identify barriers that social science is unlikely to address; some of these might be addressed by changes in the organizations that use social science information: a lack of clear roles for scientists in decision-making processes (Boggs, 1990; Freudenburg, 1989; Webber, 1987) political influences (Corwin and Louis, 1982; Freudenburg, 1989; Freudenburg and Keating, 1985; Gismondi, 1997; Patton et al., 1977) unavailability of social science research results until after a decision must be made (Dreyfus, 1977; Greenberg and Mandell, 1991; Healy and Ascher, 1995; Jones et al., 1999; Weiss and Bucuvalas, 1980) low credibility of social science information relative to natural science information (Gismondi, 1997; Sabatier, 1978) Some other research conclusions are also worth mentioning. Weiss (1977) found that decision makers in the mental health field were open to controversial research that made them reassess comfortable assumptions; these decision makers found it possible that others in their fields would also consider such research in their decision-making processes. Weiss and
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities Bucuvalas (1980) found four situations when decision makers in the mental health field commonly sought new information: when they faced new circumstances when they had to make decisions that involved important or expensive outcomes when they might request consultants’ help on issues where they lacked expertise in situations where they wanted authoritative backup because their judgment might be challenged In a study of legislative decision makers, Webber (1987) found that most were unlikely to use policy information or social science if left to their own tendencies. Legislators were more likely to use these sources if they already viewed social science as valid and useful information; if the research supported views they already held; or if their constituents had requested such information, asked questions about it, or demanded that attention be paid to issues covered by it. STUDIES IN ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION MAKING In environmental decision making, there is a great deal more research on the use of natural science than social science. A quick search through the database Elsevier-ScienceDirect, on science and environmental policy, for example, will bring up dozens of articles. These range in topic from examinations of risk assessment and scientific uncertainty in policy making to incorporating long-term monitoring and environmental impact assessments. No attempt was made to review this literature. Studies of social science use in environmental decision making are sparse overall and tend to focus on case studies of social impact assessment, but a couple of insights are worth mentioning. Freudenburg (1989) highlights that social scientists must overcome the hurdle of explaining to nonsocial science background persons the many ways in which environmental policies are social and the need for environmental decision making to use social science information. Fricke (1985) discusses an important factor in environmental decisions that is also mentioned in articles on social policy—the need for better communication between researchers and decision makers before research begins in order to clarify the objectives of and required knowledge for projects and planning. INSIGHTS FROM SOCIAL STUDIES OF SCIENCE Although this field of research would likely add another valuable per-
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities spective to the analysis of social science utilization, this review examined it only briefly, as it surfaced late in the study time frame. One example where this field of study could provide valuable insights is in understanding how researchers interact with those who will be using their research findings. Freudenberg and Gramling (2002) discuss the variety of ways that natural scientists often struggle to remain unbiased in conducting their work, especially when they are asked to provide information in policy-making situations. The authors provide an insightful analysis of Paul Hirt’s 1994 book, Conspiracy of Optimism. In examining the U.S. Forest Service policy for promoting “sustained yield” of wood production, the authors’ focus on Hirt’s conclusion that even when Forest Service scientists were committed to carrying out balanced research and believed that they were doing so, their findings often resulted in significant short-term benefits for those interests that were focused on exploitation of the resource over the broader interests of the resource and the public interest. Freudenberg and Gramling (2002) explain this phenomenon in terms of how the research process can be limited by blind spots and scientific limitations. “Few of those scientists have had any difficulty in recognizing this pattern in retrospect; equally few of them, unfortunately, appear to have been able to recognize it in advance. The authors go on to suggest that natural science researchers in this situation may have benefited from interaction with social scientists, especially those who would be familiar with “unseen, structural biasing pressures” present in many research scenarios. Social science analyses of the relationships between researchers and those requesting the research would likely benefit not only from study outcomes but also their utilization. RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE REVIEWED LITERATURE What Social Science Researchers Can Do to Improve Utilization Some of the studies make recommendations for improving utilization of social science by government decision makers. Francis, King, and Riddlesperger (1980) suggest that researchers should “[target] evaluations to the interests of the administrators or legislators, [and] use an appropriate justification when suggesting programmatic or policy changes.” In contrast, Landry et al. (2001, 2003) find that focusing research on users’ needs does not improve utilization any more than research focused on the advancement of scholarly knowledge. Other studies suggest that researchers should explore alternative approaches and roles in policy making, such as forming groups who can translate university research into policy recommendations or translate policy issues into research-
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities able questions, seeking appointment to science policy committees or encouraging interest groups to push for committee members who will listen to social scientists (Boggs, 1990; Caplan, 1977; Catalano, Simmons, and Stokols, 1975; Freudenburg and Gramling, 2002; Freudenburg, 1989) social scientists’ policy recommendations should be based on appropriate political factors (Caplan, 1977; Patton et al., 1977) Dissemination of social science research is presented as an important positive influence on utilization in at least four studies. One study (Huberman, 1990) finds that greater contacts, including face-to-face and follow-up interactions, between researchers and decision makers throughout a study often lead to increased promotion and distribution of research findings in later stages of the dissemination process. Another study (Greenberg and Mandell, 1991) states that results might be underutilized if researchers do not take the initiative to distribute their studies directly to practitioners. The most recent studies (Landry et al., 2001, 2003) also suggest that utilization can be increased by emphasizing links between researchers and decision makers and by encouraging researchers to take the initiative in dissemination so that research is more widely available to decision makers. One example is to compensate or reward researchers for the costs of directly distributing their research. Some researchers recommend that government decision makers take some responsibility in this process by actively involving social scientists at the beginning of planning projects (Fricke, 1985; Gans, 1971; Gismondi, 1997). CONCLUSIONS This appendix presents a brief summary of the state of knowledge in the field of social science utilization. The references included in the annotated bibliography were chosen for their broad representation of this field and their applicability to the question of how decision makers use social science. For additional references, see Landry et al. (2003); this article appears to be the most current analysis of the knowledge utilization literature and its application to government decision making. The literature suggests actions that can be taken by both sides to expand the use of social science research. Researchers can take the initiative to meet with policy makers at regular intervals during the research process or directly distribute their findings to those policy makers who might be able to utilize the research. Policy makers and research funders can provide incentives to encourage social science researchers to be more proactive in distributing their research and to consider political factors when making policy recommendations. Policy makers can also take the initiative to more actively involve social scientists at the beginning stages of planning projects.
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities The field of social science utilization is one that would greatly benefit from additional research. “We know little about the factors that induce professionals and managers in government agencies to use university research in their professional activities” (Landry et al., 2003). The question of how social science is used in government decision making should not simply be an academic pursuit; government agencies’ use or nonuse of social science information has significant impacts on the lives of citizens as officials make decisions and create policies. This is only one reason why social science research on science utilization can contribute to better environmental decision making. NOTES 1. For instance, the search did not include variants of the phrase “evidence-based decision making.” 2. For additional information see the National Park Service web site: HtmlResAnchor http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/index.htm (last visited June 2004). ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY Boggs, J.P. 1990 The use of anthropological knowledge under NEPA. Human Organization 49(3):217-226. Notes: • Literature review and analysis • Use and influence of social science under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was examined • Decision makers were at the federal level • Conclusions: The study found that social science fails to produce results in the form of generalized principles that can be applied to particular cases. Practitioners need closer, more effective open links with basic social sciences. • Recommendation: The author suggested the development of a professional role for social science under NEPA that is grounded in the basic social sciences. Caplan, N. 1976 Social research and national policy: What gets used, by whom, for what purposes, and with what effects? International Social Science Journal 28(1):187-194. Notes: • 204 face-to-face, recorded interviews (dataset from Caplan et al., 1975, report)
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities • Social science research utilization and policy formation were examined • Decision makers represented high-level civil servants or political appointees from across the entire range of government activities • Conclusions: The study found that social statistics were the most frequently used data. Most of the information used in a decision was sponsored by the deciding agency, and most of the knowledge utilization was applied toward improving bureaucratic efficiency. Policy makers’ information processing style (clinical, academic, or advocacy orientation) stood out as having special influence on the level of their utilization. Policy makers also emerged as playing an active role in prescribing the information that they wanted and would ultimately use. 1977 A minimal set of conditions necessary for the utilization of social science knowledge in policy formulation at the national level. In Using Social Research in Public Policy Making, C.H. Weiss, ed. (Policy Studies Organization Series.) Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Notes: • 204 face-to-face, recorded interviews (dataset from Caplan et al., 1975, report) • Social science research utilization and policy formation were examined • Decision makers represented high-level civil servants or political appointees from across the entire range of government activities • Conclusions: The study found that the most frequent reason given for nonutilization of relevant social science information was that the implications are politically unfeasible. So, to increase utilization, the gap between social scientists and policy makers’ perspectives must be bridged, but there does not necessarily need to be more direct contacts. • Recommendations: The author suggested the formation of a group of individuals representing different roles and skills in research and policy making who can make realistic and rational appraisals of available social science information, make appropriate translations from university research to policy-making situations, recast policy issues into researchable terms, identify and distinguish between scientific and “extrascientific” knowledge needs, deal with the value issues and bureaucratic factors that influence both the development and the use of scientific results, and gain policy makers trust and sufficient understanding of the policy pro-
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities cess in order to introduce social science in ways that will increase its utilization. Caplan, N., A. Morrison, and R.J. Stambaugh 1975 The Use of Social Science Knowledge in Policy Decisions at the National Level: A Report to Respondents. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Notes: • Statistical analysis of 204 face-to-face recorded interviews • Social science research utilization and policy formation were examined • Decision makers represented high-level civil servants or political appointees from across the entire range of federal government activities including environmental and natural resource management • Conclusions: The study found that decision makers used social science in diverse ways including such examples as a basis for planning, evaluating, and determining feasibility of programs and increasing bureaucratic efficiency. Most of the information used was from internal sources or directly funded by the agency. Sociology ranked highest in frequency of use as did the methodology of program evaluation. Newspapers and government reports were the most frequently mentioned sources of social science information, with staff assistance and books listed second and professional journals third. Decision makers perceived social science information as most important in sensitizing policy makers to social needs. Factors that influenced utilization included decision makers interest and receptivity to social science information, a lack of understanding and/or mistrust between policy makers and researchers (two communities theory), a perceived objectivity of the data, findings that were counterintuitive to policy makers personal beliefs were often rejected, political feasibility, policy maker’s information processing style, and policy maker’s career plans—if they were unsatisfied with their position and planning to change careers, they were less likely to use social science information. Catalano, R., S.J. Simmons, and D. Stokols 1975 Adding social science knowledge to environmental decision making. Natural Resources Lawyer 8(1):41-58. Notes: • Case study • Environmental Impact Report process in California was examined • Decision makers were at the state level • Conclusions: The study suggested three ways for social scien-
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities • Mental health policies in service provision and financing were examined • Decision makers were bureaucrats at federal (60), state, and local (419) levels (same dataset as Oh, 1996a, b, and Oh and Rich, 1996, articles) • Conclusions: The study findings were similar to the author’s other articles but this one presented a more detailed search for causal linkages among characteristics of organizations, decision makers, and information. The study found that demographic factors, such as age and education, rarely have an influence on the impact of social science information on policy making. It also found that decision makers consciously judge how much information will be helpful rather than just assuming that the information has an impact simply because they used it. Information source was found to be the most important variable in accounting for impact; decision makers were more likely to believe that information influenced the decision-making process if it came from internal sources. Oh, C.H., and R.F. Rich 1996 Explaining use of information in public policymaking. International Journal of Knowledge Transfer and Utilization 1996 9(1):3-35. Notes: • Multiple regression, integrated path model, literature review and analysis • Mental health policies in service provision and financing were examined • Decision makers were bureaucrats at federal (60), state, and local (419) levels (same dataset as Oh, 1996a, b, article) • Conclusions: The study found that information utilization was directly and indirectly influenced by a variety of factors and the links between them. Three examples included (1) Policy makers are more likely to use information in making decisions when they are faced with unfamiliar problems. In such cases they will seek a wide variety of information from a variety of sources because they need to reduce the uncertainty. (2) Information utilization was more complex in the financing area because the more technical issues and greater expertise and professional knowledge required finance decision makers to break trends—meaning that even if they had a negative attitude toward policy information, they would use it because they needed to cope with problems and persuade their colleagues. (3) Information source was the most influential factor in accounting for information use. Information from internal sources was more likely to be used, perhaps because
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities it was easier or less expensive to obtain. The authors suggested that organizational incentive systems could facilitate wider information searches but could not guarantee information use in decision making. This can be explained with the idea that too much information from too many sources could confuse decision makers so they do not know what information to use. Patton, M.Q., P.G. Smith, K.M. Guthrie, N.J. Brennan, B. Dickey Grench, and D.A. Blyth 1977 In search of impact: An analysis of the utilization of federal health evaluation research. In Using Social Research in Public Policy Making, C.H. Weiss, ed. (Policy Studies Organization Series.) Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Notes: • A random sample of 20 case studies, interviews with decision makers from each case • National health program evaluations were examined • Decision makers were at the federal level • Conclusions: The study found that utilization may often be defined too narrowly to include the most common uses of information in policy making. Policy makers use social science information in more subtle ways than researchers might desire. It was often used to reduce uncertainty in the decision process, such as supporting already known facts, resolving confusion or misunderstandings, improving credibility, etc. Eleven factors were analyzed for their impact on utilization: methodological appropriateness, timeliness, lateness of report, positive-negative findings, surprise of findings, central-peripheral program objectives evaluated, presence or absence of related studies, political factors, government-evaluator interactions, and resources available for the study. Two factors emerged as having significant influence on social science utilization: methodological quality and appropriateness and political factors. Pollard, W.E. 1987 Decision making and the use of evaluation research. American Behavioral Scientist 30(6):661-677. Notes: • Literature review and analysis • Evaluation research was examined • Decision makers were individuals and groups • Conclusions: The study found that evaluation research could be used descriptively for creating awareness of problems; problem definition, determining who was affected, the scope of the problem; evaluation of alternative options for solutions; consequences
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities involved in outcomes; and assessing implementation and effectiveness of decisions. Powell, M.R. 1999 Science at EPA: Information in the Regulatory Process. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future. Notes: • Case study, interviews with over 100 respondents • Use of scientific information in environmental decisions was examined • Decision makers were federal bureaucrats in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) • Conclusions: The study found that there was a weak-to-non-existent feedback loop between decision makers and science sources; internal gatekeepers and intermediaries had strong influences on what science gets communicated to EPA decision makers; the EPA must rely on external research sources due to budget constraints so it rarely has much say in the design of the studies on which it depends; and the availability of accepted data, methods, and scope of analysis influenced what information did or did not get communicated to EPA decision makers. This study also showed the common use of case studies in environmental research. Rich, R.F. 1977 Uses of social science information by federal bureaucrats: Knowledge for action versus knowledge for understanding. In Using Social Research in Public Policy Making, C.H. Weiss, ed. (Policy Studies Organization Series.) Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Notes: • 38 interviews • Continuous National Survey data were examined • Decision makers were federal bureaucrats in seven domestic service-oriented agencies • Conclusions: The study found that policy makers valued survey research information; they were open to developing new information utilization in their agencies; they held some feelings of mistrust toward researchers but it did not seem to prevent the use of research results; and they were aware of the needs, expectations, and constraints that researchers face but were still eager to make use of available researchers and information. 1981 Social Science Information and Public Policy Making: The Interaction between Bureaucratic Politics and the Use of Survey Data. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Notes: Full text unavailable for review Abstract: Published in the Jossey-Bass Social and Behavioral Sci-
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities ence Series, with a Foreword by Kenneth Prewitt and a Preface by the author. Analyzed in seven chapters, are results of a National Science Foundation administrative experiment, the Continuous National Survey (CNS), to improve use of social science data by policy-making agencies, e.g., HEW and HUD. Interviews with CNS personnel (N = 38) over a two-year period suggested that policymakers’ use of information is determined by personal or agency interests rather than by data content, cost, or timeliness. Chapter (1) Experiment in the Application of Survey Research—describes the rationale of the CNS and indicates researcher/agency communication problems. (2) Continuous National Survey: Structure and Analysis—characterizes the multipurpose nature of the survey and analyzes knowledge-inquiry systems. (3) Development and Funding of the Survey Experiment—describes the role of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) in implementing the study and indicates priorities in determining the granting of funds. (4) Planning and Conducting the Project—describes problems arising between agencies and the NORC. (5) Assessing the Survey Experiment—points to factors of trust and agency procedure influencing data use and judges the success of the knowledge transfer mechanism. (6) Utilization of the Survey Information—suggests that data use is conditioned by involvement in collecting information. (7) Future of Survey Research for Meeting National Needs—designates bureaucratic practice as the main factor conditioning data use. four Appendixes: (A) Questionnaires; (B) Basic Coding Sheet and Summary Tables; (C) Agency Memos, I; (D) Agency Memos, II. 15 tables, references. 2001 Social Science Information and Public Policy Making, Second Edition. (NORC Series in Social Research: Jossey-Bass Social and Behavioral Science Series.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Notes: • Case study analysis, 38 interviews • Continuous National Survey data were examined (same dataset as from 1977 article) • Decision makers were federal bureaucrats • Conclusions: The study found that utilization was influenced by the clarity of initial definitions for specific policy applications, but information was often used for different purposes than it was initially requested for; the gap between researchers and policy makers was usually bridged easily once communication began through departmental decision-making channels; and bureaucrats sought to control information resources and processes in order to maximize the organization’s interests as they perceived them.
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities Rich, R.F., and C.H. Oh 2000 Rationality and use of information in policy decisions—A search for alternatives. Science Communication 22(2):173-211. Notes: Full text unavailable for review Abstract: In the field of knowledge acquisition, dissemination and utilization, and impact, few studies have examined the appropriateness of rational actor theories as a theoretical framework. Rather the rational actor perspective has been simply taken for granted as a relevant analytical tool for explaining the use of information in policy making. This article singles out one major set of assumptions embedded in rational actor theories, those dealing with information acquisition and processing in individual decision making, and empirically examines to what extent the assumptions are realistic. It then puts forward an organizational interest and a communications perspective as alternative explanations for information processing in individual and organizational decision making. The findings of this article show that decision makers’ behavior does not conform to the assumptions put forward by the rational actor theorists. Instead, the organizational interest perspective is far more promising in accounting for the actual behavior of individuals in processing information in making policy decisions. Rosen, P.L. 1977 Social science and judicial policy making. In Using Social Research in Public Policy Making, C.H. Weiss, ed. (Policy Studies Organization Series.) Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Notes: • Literature review and analysis • Study examined the use of social science in setting legal policy • Decision makers were Supreme Court justices • Conclusions: The study found that it was very difficult to determine the true use of social science in legal decision making. Sometimes it was inadmissible, sometimes it was used because findings were credible but not necessarily scientific so results were partisan instead of objective; if judges wanted to change or set policy, social science information could provide the basis of empirical knowledge needed to overcome precedent; judges who are “result oriented” may be more likely to look to social science for information on potential outcomes of decisions. Sabatier, P. 1978 The acquisition and utilization of technical information by administrative agencies. Administrative Science Quarterly 23:396-417. Notes: • Literature review, multivariate analysis
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities • Science and technology information was examined • Decision makers were federal-level administrative agencies • Conclusions: The study identified and examined variables that affected the provision of technical information including available resources, characteristics of the issue, legal and political context, and the anticipated reaction of decision makers. It also presented variables that affected the influence of technical information on decision making, including resources of information source, content of the message (here the author noted that natural scientists had greater credibility than social scientists), timeliness of the message, and resources and perspective of the decision maker. Overall, the study found that technical information was most likely influential when it involved high-quality research of a specific issue by a notable scientist who held excellent credibility with the decision maker; the findings were generally consistent with those of other studies, presented in a timely and suitable manner, and did not imply substantial changes from the decision makers’ predisposed position. In addition, the influence was maximized on issues where there was high consensus on the objectives, but only moderate scientific complexity and information was most likely used in politically secure offices dominated by collegial professionals versus hierarchical managers or procedural lawyers. Scott, R.A., and A.R. Shore 1979 Why Sociology Does Not Apply: A Study of the Use of Sociology in Public Policy. New York: Elsevier. Notes: • Literature review and analysis • Social science research on issues of national domestic problems in the twentieth century was examined • Decision makers were at the federal level • Conclusions: The study reviewed past studies and found two primary factors: (1) Many applied social science studies have reported interesting findings, but few produced policy recommendations of any kind, and (2) in cases where recommendations were made, they were often rejected by federal policy makers as politically unfeasible, administratively undoable, or simply not practical. Two reasons for these outcomes were presented: (1) problems with the starting points in sociology, such as weak theory, primitive research methods, incomplete knowledge, and misperceptions on the part of sociologists of how social science research can be used by policy makers, and (2) problems with government receptivity of social science research, for example, using social science data to further agency aims, congressional members seeking social
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities science to reinforce preestablished positions, bureaucrats seeking it primarily to justify and refine administrative procedures and secondarily to accomplish policy, and the executive office seeking specific results to assist in developing comprehensive programs that are politically feasible. Overall, social science is most relevant to policy making as a source of methods and techniques and as providing scientific justification for one position or another. It is less relevant as a source of intellectual advice about broad policy questions or long-range implications and consequences of proposed policy alternatives. This is because the political process tends to develop policies that present a broad consensus rather than suggestions for changes that might be significant departures from the status quo. Useem, M. 1977 Research funds and advisors: The relationship between academic social science and the federal government. In Using Social Research in Public Policy Making, C.H. Weiss, ed. (Policy Studies Organization Series.) Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Notes: • Questionnaire survey • A random sample of 500 academic social scientists from each of the following disciplines: anthropology, economics, political science, and psychology (1,079 usable responses) was examined • Decision makers were academic social scientists in their role as advisors for allocation of federal research funds • Conclusions: The study found that substantial amounts of funding were awarded to researchers whose work was valued by professional colleagues but not generally by policy makers. Advisory positions were often filled with social scientists who have greater loyalties to their academic discipline than to the federal agency involved in the funding and research. Webber, D.J. 1987 Legislators’ use of policy information. American Behavioral Scientist 30(5):612-631. Notes: • Structured interviews with a representative sample • Social science analysis: “Policy information” was defined as scientific and technical information about the ways a policy actually works, or would work if it were to be adopted—information ranging from commonsense knowledge to academic research. • Decision makers were state level—60 of the 100 members (65 Republicans and 35 Democrats) of the Indiana House of Representatives during the 1981 session.
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities • Conclusions: The study found that decision makers were not likely to use policy information or social science if left to their own inclinations. They were more likely to use these sources if they already viewed social science as valid and useful information or if their constituents requested such information, asked questions about it, or demanded that attention be paid to issues covered by it. • Recommendations: The author suggested that academic policy researchers need to reevaluate their role as educators to focus on more interdisciplinary, decision-focused training so that students become information-seeking decision makers. Policy researchers who are interested in the use of their work must alter the knowledge dissemination process so that their research more readily becomes common sense or ordinary knowledge. Weiss, C.H. 1977 Research for policy’s sake: The enlightenment function of social research. Policy Analysis 3(4):531-545. Notes: • Literature review and analysis, 255 interviews (same data and results used in Weiss and Bucuvalas, 1977) • Study explores use of social science for enlightenment of policy issues • Decision makers were in federal-level mental health agencies • Conclusions: The study presented the enlightenment model as a role for research as social criticism. It also identified characteristics decision makers used to judge information usefulness, including research quality, conformity to user expectations, action orientation, challenge to status quo, and relevance to issues the office dealt with. One unexpected finding was that decision makers were open to controversial research that made them reassess comfortable assumptions and they found it possible that others in their field would consider such research in their decision-making processes. 1979 The many meanings of research utilization. Public Administration Review 39(5):426-431. Notes: • Literature review and analysis • The study explored the meaning of “using research.” It examined six models of knowledge utilization: (1) knowledge driven—from the natural sciences, basic research reveals opportunities that may be relevantly applied to policy; (2) problem solving—direct application of results from specific social science study to a pending decision; (3) interactive—incorporates linear order from research to decision and nonlinear interconnections; (4) po-
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities litical—use of research to support a predetermined stand on an issue or decision; (5) tactical—strategic use of the research process or results, for example, the results may not be emphasized as much as the fact that research is being done on the issue; and (6) enlightenment—idea that social science data and generalizations permeate throughout informed publics and shape the way people think about issues. • Conclusion: The study found that to better understand the complex ways social science is used in policy making, researchers must better define what it means to “use research.” 1983 Ideology, interests, and information: The basis of policy positions. In Ethics, the Social Sciences, and Policy Analysis, D. Callahan and B. Jennings, eds. (The Hastings Center Series in Ethics.) New York: Plenum Press. Notes: • Literature review and analysis • Social science analysis of the policy process • Conclusion: The author argues that every policy results from interactions among ideologies, interests, and information. She presents how research is influenced by these three factors and examines the role of power in determining whose ideology, interests, and information will determine outcomes in policy making. She also suggests that in order to better understand how research will influence policy, future studies need to consider the interplay of ideologies, interests, and existing information in the situation at hand. Weiss, C.H., and M.J. Bucuvalas 1977 The challenge of social research to decision making. In Using Social Research in Public Policy Making, C.H. Weiss, ed. (Policy Studies Organization Series.) Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Notes: • Examined 50 research studies: conducted 255 interviews, 510 (analytic) case studies clustered through factor analysis (same data and results from the Weiss, 1977, article) • Information use from mental health areas was examined • Decision makers were at the federal and state level • Conclusions: The study identified characteristics decision makers used to judge information usefulness, including research quality, conformity to user expectations, action orientation, challenge to status quo, and relevance to issues dealt with. 1980 Social Science Research and Decision Making. New York: Columbia University Press.
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities Notes: • Literature review and analysis, 255 interviews (same data and results used in Weiss and Bucuvalas, 1977) • Information use from mental health areas was examined • Decision makers were at the federal and state level • Conclusions: The study presented similar findings as Weiss’s other articles and book chapter but this one had a more detailed literature analysis. Study presented the following obstacles to research use: academic researchers were often not interested in policy-relevant issues; research questions did not match policy makers definitions of problem issues; researchers simplified problems to make them easier to study; social science had few broad theories that could be applicable to framing policy research; social science methodology was often limited (i.e., data were limited or inaccurate); problems were often conceptualized to fit the methods instead of fitting the nature of the policy question; social research often took more time than policy makers had before a decision must be made; social research concepts often did not match decision makers’ assumptions of social behavior; a great deal of social research examined issues that policy makers could do little to change (i.e., race, class, etc.); much of the research had inconclusive or repetitive findings or little guidance in the results; research was based on past experiences and may not match the present problems; researchers may be unwilling to make the leap required to go from data to recommendations; researchers political preferences, which influence their work, may be at odds with the perspectives of government officials; the same old social problems may not attract the interests of researchers even though decision makers still needed advice on them; results of studies in the same issue area may be divergent and contradictory. “[R]esearch is seldom used to affect decision deliberately. Rather it fills in the background, it supplies the context, form which ideas, concepts, and choices derive” (p. 155). • Recommendation: The authors suggested that asking groups of decision makers what they want in research could be helpful for improving utilization. Wilensky, H.L. 1997 Social science and the public agenda: Reflections on the relation of knowledge to policy in the United States and abroad. Journal of Health Politics, Policy & Law 22(1):1241-1265.
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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities Notes: • Literature analysis and persuasion • Effects of social science research on social issues, such as crime prevention and labor market policies in the United States compared with Europe were examined • Decision makers were at the federal level • Conclusions: The study found that social research increased the knowledge of policy makers in two ways: (1) It helped identify issues that were open to alternatives and possible to change and (2) it brought new options and a greater range of alternatives to light.
Representative terms from entire chapter: