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.
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: