IN PUBLIC POLICY
Committee on the Use of Social Science
Knowledge in Public Policy
Kenneth Prewitt, Thomas A. Schwandt, and Miron L. Straf, Editors
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract No. SES-0630359 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation; by Contract No. 7275 with the William T. Grant Foundation; by Contract No. 2006-7875 with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and by Contract No. 20070001 with the Spencer Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2012). Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy. Committee on the Use of Social Science Knowledge in Public Policy, K. Prewitt, T.A. Schwandt, and M.L. Straf, Editors. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
COMMITTEE ON THE USE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE IN PUBLIC POLICY
Kenneth Prewitt (Chair), School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York
George W. Bohrnstedt, American Institutes for Research (emeritus), Palo Alto, CA
Norman M. Bradburn, National Opinion Research Center and Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago
Alicia L. Carriquiry, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University
Nancy D. Cartwright, London School of Economics and Political Science and Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego
Harris Cooper, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University
Michael J. Farrell, New York City Police Department, New York
Stephen E. Fienberg, Department of Statistics and the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
Sheila S. Jasanoff, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Robert L. Jervis, Department of Political Science, Columbia University
Robert E. Litan, Bloomberg Government, Washington, DC
Ann Morning, Department of Sociology, New York University
Robert A. Pollak, John M. Olin School of Business, Washington University
Stephen H. Schneider,* Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Stanford University
Thomas A. Schwandt, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sidney Verba, Department of Government, Harvard University
Miron L. Straf, Study Director
Melissa Lee Sands, Consultant
Jonathan R. Dolle, Research Associate
Mary Ann Kasper, Senior Program Assistant
*Died in July 2010.
The Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) of the National Research Council (NRC) in 2005 established a standing committee to consider questions of how to strengthen the quality and use of social science research and to lay a foundation for the continuous improvement in the conduct of social science research and its applications to public policy. The standing committee was to identify areas of significant interest to those in the policy, research, and practitioner communities.
That committee convened a number of workshops and discussion meetings and met with a variety of researchers engaged in research on evidence for public policy, and it also consulted with policy makers about the usefulness of social science research to their work. As a result of those workshops and meetings, the committee concluded that it should give less attention to how the social sciences produce knowledge about policy, and focus, instead, on the settings and conditions that affect whether social science knowledge is used in policy making. To carry out the task identified, the NRC in 2009 set up the Committee on the Use of Social Science Knowledge in Public Policy.
This new committee decided to propose a framework for research on how policy makers make use of scientific knowledge and how the results of that research might lead to improved policy making and improved preparation of students in policy schools for careers in the policy world. This report is the result of the work of the committee.
In acknowledging the many people who made our work possible, we begin with thanks to members of the original standing committee (who are not members of the present committee), whose insights contributed to the work that followed: Thomas D. Cook, Northwestern University; Judith Feder, Georgetown University; Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University; Michael Peckham, University College, London; and Philip E. Tetlock, University of Pennsylvania.
We also acknowledge with gratitude and sadness the contributions of Stephen H. Schneider, Stanford University, who served on the standing committee and on this committee until his death in 2010.
Many NRC staff helped to guide the work of the standing and authoring committees. We particularly acknowledge the leadership of Michael J. Feuer, the former executive director of DBASSE, who guided the initial development of our study. We also thank other staff who helped the standing committee: Marty Orland and Catherine Freeman, initial study directors; Tina Winters, senior program associate; and Dorothy Majewski, administrative assistant.
As the co-editors drafted text for the report, one committee member, Norman Bradburn, met frequently with us, offering invaluable advice. Mary Ann Kasper served as our senior project assistant, and Viola Horek provided important administrative support. Editorial assistance was provided by Eugenia Grohman, and Kirsten Sampson-Snyder marshaled our report through review.
We also acknowledge the sponsors of this study: the U.S. National Science Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Robert F. Boruch, Graduate School of Education and Statistics, University of Pennsylvania; David S. Cordray, Center for Evaluation Research and Methodology, Institute for Public Policy Studies, Vanderbilt University;
James E. Geringer, Policy and Public Sector Strategies, ESRI, Inc., Cheyenne, Wyoming; Arthur Lupia, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; Robert A. Moffitt, Department of Economics, Johns Hopkins University; William D. Nordhaus, Department of Economics, Yale University; Michael J. O’Grady, National Opinion Research Center, Bethesda, Maryland; Lant Pritchett, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University; Daniel R. Sarewitz, Center for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, Columbia University; Bernard Silverman, Department of Statistics, Oxford University; and Laura Siminoff, Department of Social and Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Lawrence D. Brown, Department of Statistics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and Richard J. Bonnie, Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy, University of Virginia. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Kenneth Prewitt, Chair
Miron L. Straf, Study Director
Committee on the Use of Social Science
Knowledge in Public Policy