to policy making is used to help students make sense of the interconnectedness of actors and institutions and the frameworks that shape policy choices. Nor did we find policy education to be self-conscious about the issue one might expect it to be most attentive to: what do students need to understand about the use of scientific evidence in public policy?

The social sciences have the opportunity to influence the competencies and perspectives that today’s students in master’s-level policy programs carry with them into positions across the policy enterprise. We hope that this report will spur self-examination across policy schools. One outcome might be differentiation, with some programs providing ever more rigorous training in methods and theories that strengthen research about “what works” and other programs emphasizing rigorous training in methods and theories that strengthen understanding of the conditions needed to put that research to policy use. Such a division of labor would result in a broad array of perspectives and skills available to think tanks, legislative staffs, policy units in executive branches, and other settings in the policy enterprise—from local government to international agencies, in both the public and the private sector.

There is no better way to summarize this chapter than repeating a truism—effective public policy is dependent on a steady supply of well prepared graduates prepared for public service and associated careers in the policy enterprise. Our report advocates a broad definition of well prepared, certainly to include technical competencies in evaluation research, program design, measurement, and the like—but to include as well an understanding of how science can be used to inform public policy.


The committee writes this report mindful that the American public’s willingness to invest in science education and research is not unlimited, and that the immediate times emphasize scrutiny of the investment. But these times are also witness to a steadily growing policy enterprise—a broad effort to make “better” policy through the application of science. We have not taken a position on “better” policy, but have certainly taken a position on the value of, to return to our title, Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy. Moreover, we have written that it is within the competency of and is therefore an obligation of the social sciences to advance our understanding of “using science.”

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