We obviously strongly endorse social science continuing to improve its capacity to assess conditions and to help design and evaluate policies directed at those conditions. But this indispensible work provides little information about whether what is learned is used. Improving the scientific understanding of what occurs at the science-policy intersection involves going beyond the focus on what research “use” means and going beyond the effort to produce better science.
Social science has methods and theories that can significantly expand on whether what is learned is used, and can, in the process, add a new dimension to what science offers to policy. Our perspective urges broad social science attention to what happens during policy arguments, with a specific focus on whether, why, and how science is used as evidence in public policy.