Before explaining how social science is or could be used in policy, it is first important to think why it should be used. Why do we do social science? For most of us, our research goes beyond intellectual curiosity. We want to make an impact on the world around us—to observe and systematically report on conditions that affect society as a means for change and improvement.
Although researchers’ work tends to have meaningful implications for policy, there is no direct, linear pathway from knowledge production to its use for public benefit. This can be frustrating at times for social scientists who wonder: why aren’t policymakers using more research to inform their decisions? Although research is not always driving decision-making, key examples from the bipartisan evidence-based policy movement offer hope, such as the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which is backed by evidence and has received bipartisan support. However, policies like this contrast with others that appear to disregard science. So the real question is not why is research disregarded, but under what circumstances is research used—and can we improve the rate it is used?Read More