social science knowledge. As a result, the committee’s recommendations focus on strengthening the scientific foundations of the IC’s analytical methods and the organizational processes needed to support them.
The committee recommends that the IC adopt a two-fold strategy to take full advantage of existing behavioral and social science research. First, it should review its current analytic methods and procedures, in terms of how compatible they are with what is known about how people think and work, as individuals and groups. Second, it should conduct systematic empirical evaluations of current and proposed procedures, assessing their efficacy under normal working conditions as much as possible. Those assessments will allow the IC to know how much confidence to place in these procedures and where to focus its efforts on developing improved ones. These evaluations will not only strengthen the evidentiary base of the IC’s analytical work, but also provide the feedback necessary for continuous learning and improvement.
Over time, this strategy will provide a powerful impetus to basic research critical to the IC’s needs. The former head of a major research unit in the United Kingdom has argued that basic science advances through integrated programs of applied basic and basic applied research (Baddeley, 1979). The former tests how well basic research generalizes to different applied settings. The latter identifies new theoretical questions and then translates them into terms suited to basic research (e.g., experiments, modeling).
Such an integrated research strategy will derive the full benefit of the behavioral and social sciences for the IC’s analytical enterprise. In some cases, the resulting research will be on topics unique to the IC, such as the linguistic conventions of violent extremists. In other cases, it will be on general topics that are central to the IC’s needs, such as electronic collaboration among analysts with heterogeneous information.
The committee’s recommendations are designed to deliver maximum improvement with minimal disruption, helping analysts to do their normal work better. We believe that dramatic improvements in the analytic process are possible within existing organizational constraints. We recognize that many people in the IC feel reorganization fatigue, so we propose ways of working more effectively within whatever structure the IC assumes. We also know that all organizations succeed, in part, by allowing their staff to learn how to work around their inevitable imperfections. Achieving such mastery takes time. If an organization changes too rapidly, its staff cannot function effectively. Thus, we emphasize orderly, measured improvements.
Because they build on existing technologies and organizational structures, our recommendations should not be expensive to implement. They do require both deeply knowledgeable scientists and strong leaders. The scientists will need to know the existing research and ensure its faithful application to the IC’s circumstances. The leaders will need to ensure that