although there are heuristically valuable typologies of ways science is used in policy, the typologies have not (and perhaps cannot) guide empirical research programs. Second, the research specialty labeled “knowledge utilization” has focused on challenges highlighted by the “two communities” metaphor (researchers and policy makers, each with their distinctive cultures) and proposed various innovations to improve communication and interaction between science and policy—brokering, translation, interaction models. There is little systematic research on whether these innovations are improving the use of science in policy, although there are clear indications that they are being usefully applied in practice settings. In fact, it is not even clear that the two communities metaphor is the most fruitful way to frame a study of knowledge use in policy. Third, although the relatively recent approach known as evidence-based policy and practice, focused on improving understanding of “what works,” has influenced the production of scientific knowledge, it has made little contribution to understanding the use of that knowledge. In some of its more prominent formulations the issue of “use,” because it involves political and value considerations, is said to be outside the scope of evidence-based policy.
If more than three decades of worrying about science use in public policy has not produced satisfactory explanations, it may be that we have been looking in the wrong place—for a coherent typology of use or ways to bridge the gap between two communities. The committee turned its attention to a research framework that draws on recent developments in social science perhaps better suited to explaining the use of science in public policy.
The first step in constructing the framework reprised a familiar point. Science, when it has something to offer, should be at the policy table. But it shares that table with an array of nonscientific reasons for making a policy choice: personal and political beliefs and values are present, as are lessons from experience, trial and error learning, and reasoning by analogy. Obviously, political matters and pressures weigh heavily when policy choices are made. Nevertheless science is a unique voice. What science has to say about policy choices results from investigations governed by systematic and rule-governed efforts that guard against self-deception—against believing something is true because one wants it to be. Because science is designed to be disinterested, if a policy question involves what are the “real” conditions or what will “probably” happen if one policy is implemented instead of another, science is generally a more dependable and defensible guide than informed hunches, analogies, or personal experience. Also, at least in