How does evidence-based social science research influence policy-making either directly or indirectly? A recent New York Times article remarking on the overall importance of social science research in the policy process noted, “most striking is the poor showing of sociology, whose relevance to policy makers appears to be minimal, even though it focuses on many of our most pressing problems, including families, crime, education, aging, religion, community, inequality and poverty.” According to the study cited in the article, over the last decade, economists were cited in the Congressional Record, 4.7 thousand times, historians 2.6 thousand times, psychologists 996 times, and sociologist 233 times. Despite their limited influence, many sociologists and other social scientists conduct research that has direct policy relevance and an equal number are committed to provide solutions to social problems. Many are not aware of the contexts, networks, and strategies that can result in the use of their research in the policy arena. The paper will examine a relational model (developed by Dr. Patricia E. White on sabbatical from the National Science Foundation) that identifies the network pathways, leading to the use of social science research in the policy process and the relationships that facilitate use, including policy/research collaborations, media, governmental and non-governmental, academic science networks. The paper, based on an analysis of an NSF funded policy research
workshop and policy research case studies, will focus on the conditions which enable and constrain the use of social science research, the networks that aid in the policy use, and the dissemination strategies that are necessary. The answers to three questions will be the panel’s focus:
1. What are the usages of social science research 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 research use in the policy process.