Center for Social Science Research
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Overview

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This workshop, supported by the National Science Foundation, convenes a group of social scientists from the academy, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to discuss social science research within the context of public policy. Many of these scholars make concerted efforts to contribute evidence-based research to bear on important policy issues and solutions. The focus of the workshop is to conceptualize an approach that will help us to better understand how social science research informs the policy process. Specifically, the workshop seeks to refine a preliminary “relational” conceptual model, which posits that social science research informs public policy in multiple, but mostly nontransparent ways. The basic premise of this relational framework is that rather than an “idealized” and linear causal model that takes for granted that social science research is produced and publicly available, therefore policymakers will read this research in scholarly journals and adopt the methods and findings to craft new policy. Workshop participants will share their experience with contributions to public policy and the policy process through case studies. The case studies will document the relationships, strategies, activities, networks, and processes that result in the use of social science research for a broad array of policy purposes.

The case studies, by drawing upon actual policy experiences, will illustrate the success or failure of different kinds of relations and strategies that result in a variety of policy uses including direct impacts, symbolic uses, and background information. The case studies address three questions:

  1. How is social science research used in the policy process?
  2. Through what strategies, relationships, contexts, or processes does social science research enter the public policy and practice?; and
  3. Are there relational strategies that are effective in communicating policy-relevant findings?

The answers to these questions should result in a more realistic interactive model of human relationships, networks, and social processes that result in the use or the failure to use social science research in a variety of policy situations. A report that captures the substance that emerges from the workshop will assist social scientists who actively disseminate their findings beyond the academic research community to better understand and more successfully engage the processes by which research can and does inform public policy and practice.

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