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RESEARCH FOR POLICY'S SAKE - THE ENLIGHTENMENT FUNCTION OF SOCIAL RESEARCH (FROM POLICY STUDIES - REVIEW ANNUAL, V 2, 1978, BY HOWARD E FREEMAN - SEE NCJ 51647)

NCJ Number
51650
Author(s)
C H WEISS
Date Published
1978
Length
15 pages
Annotation
RESULTS FROM THREE STUDIES ARE USED TO DEVELOP A MODEL FOR EXPLAINING THE USE OF SOCIAL RESEARCH BY SOCIAL POLICYMAKERS.
Abstract
THE FOCUS OF THE PRESENTATION IS THREE RECENT QUANTITATIVE STUDIES OF GOVERNMENT USE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH. A UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN STUDY CONDUCTED INERVIEWS WITH 204 HIGH-LEVEL FEDERAL DECISIONMAKERS IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH DEPARTMENTS. EACH INTERVIEW CONCENTRATED ON THE RESPONDENT'S USE OF SPECIFIC RESEARCH STUDIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF HIS JOB. THE INTENT OF THE STUDY WAS TO FIND OUT WHICH RESEARCH WAS USED, UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES, AND IN WHICH WAYS. THE STUDY REPORT INDICATED THAT ONLY 9 PERCENT OF RESPONDENTS COULD NOT NAME A SINGLE USE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN THEIR JOBS. A SECOND STUDY INTERVIEWED 70 OFFICIALS OF THE FEDERAL, PROVINCIAL, AND CITY GOVERNMENTS IN VIENNA, AUSTRIA. QUESTIONNAIRES WERE ALSO SENT TO OVER 600 AUSTRIAN SOCIAL RESEARCHERS. OF 58 OFFICIALS WHO HAD SPONSORED SOCIAL RESEARCH, 65 PERCENT SAID IT HAD CHANGED THEIR OPINIONS TO SOME EXTENT, AND 43 PERCENT SAID THE CHANGE OF OPINION WAS MODERATE OR STRONG. THE USE OF THE RESEARCH OF THESE RESPONDENTS WAS ORIENTED NOT SO MUCH TO THE MAKING OF DECISIONS, BUT TO THE 'PREPARATION' OF DECISIONS. A THIRD STUDY CONDUCTED BY COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY USED A SAMPLE OF 255 SUBJECTS SERVING AS POLICYMAKERS IN A VARIETY OF SOCIAL ACTION FIELDS. EACH RESPONDENT WAS GIVEN ABSTRACTS OF PARTICULAR RESEARCH PROJECTS AND ASKED TO RATE EACH PROJECT ACCORDING TO SPECIFIED CHARACTERISTICS. THE MOST STRIKING FINDING WAS CONSIDERED TO BE THAT 'CHALLENGE TO STATUS QUO' CHARACTERISTIC WAS A POSITIVE ELEMENT FOR ALL MEASURES OF USABILITY. THE RESULTS OF ALL THE STUDIES SHOW THAT GOVERNMENT DECISIONMAKERS TEND TO USE RESEARCH INDIRECTLY, AS A SOURCE OF IDEAS, INFORMATION, AND GENERAL ORIENTATION MORE THAN AS PROBLEM-SOLVERS OF SPECIFIC ISSUES. FURTHER, AN 'ENLIGHTENMENT' MODEL FOR RESEARCH IS SUPPORTED WHICH VIEWS RESEARCH AS PROVIDING THE INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND OF CONCEPTS, ORIENTATIONS, AND EMPIRICAL GENERALIZATIONS THAT INFORM POLICY. THUS, AS NEW CONCEPTS AND DATA EMERGE FROM RESEARCH, THEIR GRADUAL CUMULATIVE EFFECT CAN BE TO CHANGE THE BASES OUT OF WHICH POLICYMAKERS OPERATE. (RCB)